Vern Thiessen’s play Shakespeare’s Will builds on the speculation of Shakespeare’s relationship with his wife Anne Hathaway and the meaning behind his will after his death. Sage Theatre’s production of the play, in the intimate setting of the Joyce Doolittle Theatre in Pumphouse Theatres, is thorough and thoughtful although a little long.
Shakespeare’s Will tells of Anne Hathaway (Elinor Holt) on the eve of her husband’s funeral. She is putting off reading his will, even though his sister Joan has gotten her home so that she can see it in written ink. But first, it is her time for words.
Anne takes us through meeting Bill, as he is known to her. How they became lovers and were wed when she got pregnant. She tells us how he was a man of few words, how her father was livid when they were to get married, how she had three children. How Bill promised to give her a ring when they had money.
The play delves into absence and loss. It examines William Shakespeare’s life from the point of view of his wife. There is speculation that Shakespeare blamed Anne for his son’s death and that he came to resent her.
The audience and the play are in the hands of Holt and director Kelly Reay and Holt has a steady grip. She sings and guides you through childbirth and adultery and trying to survive the plague. It is Anne’s story and Holt tells it well. Ajay Badoni’s lighting design gives highlights to the moments of joy in the play and shadows to the moment of sadness and loneliness. Hanne Loosen’s set design could have been more innovative, but it does its job within the play.
Shakespeare’s Will isn’t flashy or over the top dramatic. It is a story told from the point of view of the person who doesn’t usually get to tell her story. You are in Holt’s capable hands. Let Anne’s narrative wash over you like the sea.