Simon Callow has 'played' Shakespeare before many times in fact. But never quite like this. Not when it's the bard himself, as well as the retinue of characters that he created, taking centre stage. And we probably know more about this man than you thought we did.
For example when Shakespeare married at 18 his bride, Anne Hathaway, was pregnant and 26 and he needed a special licence to marry as he was 'technically' underage. Shakespeare was also one of the first British writers to make money he started out doing re-writes for other people's plays, and when the money started coming in he, shrewdly, invested in a larger buy-to-let property portfolio in and around Stratford-upon-Avon. There are also many interesting practical elements that have shaped his work for example his five act plays are so timed to allow for changing the candles that provided the lighting in some of the theatres he played in: he had to write in a good moment somewhat like the ad-breaks of today.
This one-man play is organised around Shakespeare's seven ages of man, an idea drawn from the 'All the World's a Stage' poem/ soliloquy from As You Like It, and walks the bard himself though this ageing process. There are appearances from many of Shakespeare's most famous characters, and Callow gets a chance to play, seamlessly, from both sides of the goodybady divide. Which must make it fun for him he certainly looks like he's relishing each moment.
While Callow is also known for his writing skills especially when it comes to biographies, he didn't pen this piece, it was written by Jonathan Bate, who edited the RSC's 'Shakespeare: The Complete Works'. And while Callow has also turned his hand at directing he let Tom Cairns who's directed at the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and the Old Vic lead on this one.
It's not premiering in London, 'Being Shakespeare' is already tried and tested the Edinburgh Festival loved it and it's been touring nationally ever since.