Shakespeare in Love – theatre review

Teatro Nuovo, Ferrara, 16/02/11

It’s a well-known fact that Shakespeare has been translated into many different languages, and of course Italian is no exception. It is always rather odd to watch or listen to the Bard’s work in another language, as many poetic turns of phrase are often oversimplified. “Lost in translation” is a recurring thought, although if anything simplified translations do make Shakespeare easier to understand. My first experience of Shakespeare in Italian was an enjoyable Romeo e Giulietta in an open-air theatre a few summers ago.. where else but in Verona, and perhaps I had understood more of it then than as a schoolboy pouring through the play’s pages in interminable English lessons.
Nicola Scorza’s Shakespeare in Love (nothing to do with the film of the same name) is a one-act assemblage of Shakespeare scenes and sonnets held together through the common theme of, yes, love. The two principal actors Luca Argentero and Myriam Catania (real-life husband and wife), assisted by excellent singer Gabriella Profeta and dancer / choreographer Giorgia Maddamma with live electronic music by Umberto Sangiovanni, take us on a journey through ‘the seasons of love’ via scenes from (among others) Enrico V, Pene d’Amor Perdute (Love’s Labour’s Lost), Re Lear, Macbeth and (inevitably) Romeo and Juliet (translations by Scorza).
Although the opening may make you think for a moment that in you’re at the wrong theatre, the prologue from Enrico V followed swiftly by a recital by Mercuzio from Romeo e Giulietta puts everything nicely into place. It’s a modern minimalist stage set  which suits well the choreography and music (some sonnets sung in the original English) and reminds us of how Shakespeare’s musings on love in its various forms are still as valid in the 21st century as they were in his day.

Excellent performances by both actors, but it’s Argentero who is the real surprise; although the ex-Grande Fratello contestant and underwear model has already been seen on Italian movie screens, his performance on stage proves that he is not just a pretty face. His almost constant presence on stage is practically faultless and he carries out each performance with the energy and precision of a mature actor. Catania’s experience and background are wider ranging, and as such one may have expected more, but that said a commendable performance nonetheless, most notably as Queen Margaret from Henry VI.

Only real criticism could be the choice of including The Police song ‘Roxanne‘ and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow‘ as a finale, both grating in Sangiovanni’s otherwise excellent ‘soundtrack’.

High-points however were Argentero’s rendition of Falstaff’s ode to vino from Enrico IV a soliloquy from the lesser known Timone d’Atene with a never more than now appropriate take on politicians and authority of the state.

The uncharacteristic lack of applause or indeed any kind of reaction from the Italian audience (as well as overheard after-show comments!) led me to think that few of the predominantly female had captured the spirit of the performance, or indeed the bravura of its players. Perhaps rather too many had come just to see that pretty face…

Shakespeare in Love continues to tour Italian theatres until the end of February- link for dates.

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