"THE BARD RE-CAPITULATES LIFE'S DRAMA"
by Arthur Duncan: Remote Goat on 20/11/15

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SECRETS & PASSIONS of Wm SHAKESPEARE Written & performed by Gareth Somers Directed by Lucyna Hunter for Transatlantyk2 Theatre. Touring to UK, European & US venues 2015-16. At Alma Tavern Theatre Upstairs, Bristol BS8, showing 19 – 21 November

As you've never seen or heard him before, Shakespeare 'tbe man' in Gareth Somers's scholarly re-creation of the Bard, sheds the many guises of his works that have caused discoverers “to err in report” of him. Here the famous playwright is caught bare-footed in his private chamber in his hometown in Warwickshire, home to his patient wife and grown up offspring. Now, richer than either his father or mother ever dreamt he might become, Shakespeare is revealed in this maturely studied characterisation, as a suburban family man, typical of the 16th & 17th centuries. Gifted beyond belief, (some say, yet ...) all the fantasies and histories William conceived and wrote for the stage, he may have gleaned easily by interrogating arriving travellers and reading learned books available to him.

Whilst perhaps not impressing Kemp (a comedian in Shakespeare's theatre company) the play-writer's comic wit conveys in its philosophical equivocations, some of the intellect that capable of sorting myriad snippets of rumour and reams of history chronicles into dramatic narratives for his serious plays. Let's have no snobbery, a commoner can imagine a king, and imitate royal gestures and speeches, too - yet still be a common man for all that.
Under firmly controlled direction from Lucyna Hunter, Gareth Somers gives a fine performance, hugely varied in pace and content, according to the many different characters he conjures, in recollecting Shakespeare's life. Visited in imagination and sometimes, as 'tho' 'physically,' the actor ranges between reassuringly placid and impressively powerful. When portraying the great writer, immersed in sensitive issues of the time, Somers is avuncular, breaking off to call his daughters or meditate upon his lost son, Hamnett, who had died so young. As bombastic Ben Jonson, he grows in stature and his voice brings to life, all the strength and vitality that history relates, comprised that charismatic soldier and writer. Many other men who played many parts in Shakespeares life, have entrances and exits all portrayed by Gareth Somers.

Shakespeare was alone among his contemporaries, in never getting arrested; a curious fact from which much may be deduced that he was careful never to annoy his paymasters, The Lord Chamberlain & later, King James, the Scottish monarch whom Shakespeare flattered with his mythical, historical, not comical but tragical 'Scottish Play' (If you're reading this backstage in a theatre, DO NOT SPEAK THE TITLE ALOUD - unless you care not a jot for superstition)

By meticulous research Somers has revealed that England's greatest dramatist did not solely live to write and produce his plays. Nor did he entirely write to live; other streams of income filled his coffers as was evident in his retirement to New Place, “The biggest house in Stratford,” which Shakespeare without modesty, grew wealthy enough to purchase, partly while profiting from keeping grain stored in his barns during a famine ... Not a Socialist, apparently.

These insights that Somers has extracted from his research and that Ms Hunter's collaboration has honed into a highly entertaining piece of theatre, make this show “1616; The Secrets & Passions of William Shalespeare” a worthy contributor to playgoers' appreciation of 'the greatest literary figure who ever wrote in the English language.' Unique and refreshing, for both aficianados and curious newcomers to the Bard, this short drama is a jewel, distinctly set on the world's stage. At Alma Tavern only this week. Go to