Review: A Comic Lecture on the 'Authorship' Debate; I Am Shakespeare Malvern Festival Theatre **** Culture Theatre
Byline: Terry Grimley
Frank Charlton is a nerdish schoolteacher who runs an internet chat show from his garage which questions the authorship of Shakespeare' plays.
He is assisted by his neighbour and musical director Barry, who enjoyed a brief taste of fame on Top of the Pops many years ago but has since found musical inspiration elusive. Frank's obsession with the unlikeliness of the plays having been written by an obscure actor from Stratford-upon-Avon is failing to stimulate much traffic on the website's hotline. But suddenly, through some inexplicable but dramatically convenient fluke of cyberspace, not only "William Shakspar" but also three other contenders for the authorship - Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere and Mary Sidney - are transported to the garage.
At first it seems unlikely that this creaky proposition will sustain this "comedy of Shakespearean identity crisis", devised by the company and written by Mark Rylance, despite the novelty of screens placed in the auditorium which enable us to watch Frank and Barry both onstage and live on the internet.
But Rylance, playing Frank, gives him such a vulnerable edge of desperation that you warm to him even if you have a vested interest in wanting his project to destroy the tourist economy of Stratford-upon-Avon to fail.
As the historic figures arrive to take part in the debate the show becomes a kind of comic dramatised lecture on the authorship debate. …