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The Second Best Bed/The Swan, Worcester
WE’VE heard most of the conspiracy theories… that it was Kit Marlowe or even Good Queen Bess herself who wrote the plays.
But how about this one – that William Shakespeare was little more than a drunken, semi-literate, womanising Warwickshire hayseed whose right arm was more used to lifting a beer tankard than a quill?
Writer Avril Rowlands peers through the mists of four centuries and actually comes up with the most credible, if fantastic, theory – that if anyone knew the truth it would be his wife Anne Hathaway.
So, Shakespeare is dead, the wake has been held, and his widow is alone with her thoughts. Then out it pours, in raging torrents of recrimination and regret.
With rapier-sharp insight and a use of language that rivals the Bard at times – or maybe that should read Hathaway – Rowlands lifts the lid on a Tudor can of worms.
This world premiere provides a showcase for the towering acting skills of Liz Grand as the lady herself. Piece by piece, she unravels the poet’s life to reveal a man of very little substance.
The clues come thick and fast. One moment she is the dark lady of the sonnets, the next the very embodiment of the shrew, her face contorted with rage and resentment.
Meanwhile, the witches scene in Macbeth mirrors the spells she cast to bring the teenage Will to the altar despite the fact she was pregnant with another man’s child.
Throughout, Chris Jaeger sprinkles his usual director’s gold dust on a work that places a new slant on a mystery that will captivate the curious for generations to come.
The Second Best Bed runs at the studio theatre until Saturday, April 7.
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