Shakespeare Suffers from Writer’s Block
(review by Oscar Flowers, student at Ordrup Gymnasium)
Shakespeare has been dead for many centuries, but on occasion he is brought back to life. In a cozy theatre in Østerbro, the master of theatre suffers from a very human characteristic, writer’s block.
On the top floor of the Elephant, a hostelry on the South bank of the River Thames, Nurse Dugmore (Linda Elvira) prepares a room expecting an illustrious guest, William Shakespeare himself. Scattered across the room are lit candles, shedding just enough light to reveal the full detail of the dim room. Paintings of women occupy every corner of the room, and upstage, a large printed panorama of the Thames can be seen through a murky window. In the center of it all stands a bombastic chair and a desk to match.
As Nurse Dugmore prepares the room ahead of Shakespeare’s arrival, the voices of two gentlemen are heard off stage. As Shakespeare (Ian Burns) dismisses Master Fletcher rather promptly, he limps on stage. A decaying and dilapidated Shakespeare appears, searching for a place to rest after a long journey.
It is not that Shakespeare seems particularly eager to be back in London. His beloved Globe Theatre has gone up in smoke along with many of his manuscripts, upon which he toiled for many hours. But a new Globe has been built, and Shakespeare has been given the opportunity to write a new play for the opening of this theatre, “The Jailer’s Daughter”, an idea brought to him by Fletcher, who was dismissed earlier on in the play.
Shakespeare starts to write, but no ideas come to him. Even after the sympathetic nurse Dugmore serves a cup of wine and utters the words “take another swig, thoughts come,” Shakespeare seems incapable of breaking the chains that are handcuffing his inspiration. But, when all hope for Shakespeare seems lost, a singing nymph (Christiane Bjørn Nielsen) appears. She persuades Shakespeare to draw inspiration from his previous leading ladies from previous plays. From there on, many of Shakespeare’s most notorious and infamous ladies appear, slowly giving Shakespeare the inspiration he needs to write his final play.
Burns successfully revives a Shakespeare, who has eluded us for many years, with perfect execution. He is not displayed as the romantic most people associate him with. Instead it is a tormented, sick, grieving and very human Shakespeare the audience is presented to, possessing characteristics that are much more convincing and relatable. Burns’ two companions, Elvira and Nielsen, switch from leading lady to leading lady in an effortless manner, transforming themselves with chameleon-like abilities. Both clearly enjoy taking on the monumental task of playing Shakespeare’s most infamous heroines, who include Cleopatra, Perdita, Lady Macbeth and Ophelia.
Much praise must be given to Burns and the play’s director Barry McKenna (co-writers), as they have created a play that glides from one Shakespearian play to another without friction. Although it is good to be acquainted with Shakespeare’s productions, the play is thoroughly enjoyable, even for those who do not know their Shakespeare.
Written by Oscar Flowers