BBC Radio 3, 24 April 2010
This fictionalized biography of Shakespeare's life tried to give a picture
of the man (Antony Sher) as a 43-year-old working dramatist, obsessed with his work and sustaining his company, whose preoccupation
with work rendered him insensitive to his family - especially his daughter Susannah (Helen Longworth) and brother Edmund (Joseph
Kloska). Eventually he reconciled himself to his daughter, but Edmund resembled a loose cannon - a noted actor in his own
right, he suffered from perpetual comparison with his more illustrious brother. Edmund ended up living with a street-girl
in poverty and having a child by her, much to William's anger. When Edmund died, however, William immediately regretted what
he had done.
Stephen Wakelam's play traced Shakespeare's life through his plays - Antony and
Cleopatra, The Winter's Tale and lastly Pericles. As he got older, so his capacity for writing declined
- a painful hand prevented him from setting pen to paper. He engaged fellow-dramatists such as John Marston (Stephen Crichlow)
to do the work on his behalf, but could seldom acknowledge their influence. Shakespeare was too much of a megalomanic, preoccupied
with reputation and money-making.
Jeremy Mortimer's production lacked historical authenticity: maybe this was
because of the actor's voices, whose intonations sounded relentlessly contemporary. However this was redeemed to a large extent
by Antony Sher's sardonic performance in the leading role; a person so consumed by the day-to-day responsibilities of running
a large company that he had little time for anything else. Perhaps this is what happens to all great artists.