You would have to travel far and wide to find a single person who was not familiar with the name William Shakespeare, though precious little detail is actually known of the man behind some of the finest plays to ever grace the stage.
The year is 1616 and William Shakespeare (Philip Whitchurch) is back at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, furious at his unceremonious fall from ‘fashion’. His wife, Anne (Sally Edwards), is neither too pleased with his constant moping around the house. The play presents the penultimate day of Shakespeare’s life and he claims to be suffering from a great pain: the agony of being irrelevant. Both he and Anne cannot sleep, so they muse about their lives: both together and apart. The play seemed to analyse the many roles of Shakespeare (playwright, husband, performer, and father) and introduced the audience to the character of ‘Will’.
Both written by and starring Philip Whitchurch as the bard himself, the play is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and often poignant in equal measure. One of its key strengths is how it revels in found text, often we find Shakespeare quoting his own work to contextualise his life, or Anne proving she is the source behind the words of his most colourful female characters. It is these little in-jokes that brought the best reactions from the audience and a tongue-in-cheek reference to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot bringing the best reaction of them all – “Oh God. Oh God-ohhh.”
Many assumed the relationship between William Shakespeare and Anne Hatheway a cold and loveless one, considering Shakespeare’s noted long absences away from his wife. However, Whitchurch begs to differ. It is the truly stellar performances from Whitchurch and Edwards that brings this play to life, with a real loving chemistry beneath all the marital bickering adding further weight to the statement that behind every great man there is a great woman.
Shakespeare, His Wife and The Dog is a heartwarming tribute to the playwright whose work we are all familiar with, but a man who unfortunately we are not.