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Review: Home truths from Shakespeare´s women

Female characters come back to life to help out the struggling playwright

In the play Shakespeare’s Women, the great playwright looks for inspiration from the female characters of his own, earlier, works.

The latest production That Theatre Company brings us back to the beginning of 17th century London. Shakespeare, the English writer whose legacy contains plays like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and King Lear, returns to his Globe Theatre.

He is old, but still active as a playwright, and struggling with the creation of a new female character. Years have taken the sharpness of his imagination away.

A few glasses, and then…

After a few glasses of wine the women from his earlier plays start appearing. Parts of the writers mind and soul, they feed his new character with themselves. Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Perdita, Desdemona, Cleopatra and Ophelia do not hesitate to show their creator the pain he has put them through.

While every one of Shakespeare’s creations claimed to know the right ending to his new play, only Ophelia manages to convince the master. Although Ophelia herself drowned, she selflessly wishes a happy ending to the story.

The most memorable part of Shakespeare’s Women is the most comic one. Two of the playwright’s earlier female characters are wearing moustache and black tights which lead us to think they are men. They protest against being played by men, ridiculing men’s attempts in women’s roles.


Ian Burns, is the main actor playing Shakespeare. As soon as he enters on the stage, the audience is brought back to a 1613 version of London. His flawless use of the 17th century English and the tone you would imagine from a man of this time, makes it difficult for the audience to remain mere spectators. Sitting in the audience, you would like to stand up, walk up to Shakespeare and give him another idea. Ian does not simply play Shakespeare but embodies the sentiments, thoughts and doubts the writer might have had.

All female characters are played by two actresses, Linda Elvira and Christiane Bjorg Nielsen. They impressively juggled with Shakespeare’s numerous female characters as if they were not two but ten. Ophelia becomes Lady Macbeth in a matter of seconds, not losing plausibility.

The small, cosy, studio theatre, contributes to the atmosphere. The stage is so close to the audience that actors can easily interact with their public. At one point, Shakespeare runs to the aisle and in the dim light, taken by surprise, it feels like the real Shakespeare is standing right next to you.

Soul food

The scenery is well thought-through and reflects the times.

I am a fan of minimal stage decoration, and I found it overwhelming. But this is taste.

Shakespeare’s Women is soul food for any lover of British accents. More than that, the play hijacks the audience’s mind, so without noticing, you stand in Shakespeare’s apartment, wishing to help him rediscover his inspiration.

So here is a trailer then!

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