Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: At Home with Will Shakespeare, Pip Utton, Prague Fringe 2024 ★★★★☆

Shakespeare is hungover, and we’ve joined him for an evening of contemplating how to finish a rather famous speech for actor Richard Burbage. Pip Utton offers up a whiplash-inducing, all-encompassing tour inside the Bard’s brain with all the gusto and verve he can fit into an hour. All of the classic speeches, sonnets, and songs (yes, he did write songs apparently) are delivered interspersed between Shakespeare trying to clear up the facts and misinformation surrounding his life, through a time-warped perspective in which the Bard is all too aware of the reputation he’s garnered over the centuries.

For many actors, this would be a tough ask. For Utton, however, he is able to deliver a constantly engaging, often hilarious, always insightful, and at times quite introspective performance with minimal set and props, and a clean and simple lighting wash. It’s clear from the moment you settle into the show that Utton will have the audience like putty in his hands – he delivers sonnets directly to members of the audiences, asks others for suggestions on how to finish his works, and even asks for a kiss on the cheek from one at the end.

Far from a one man show, Utton conducts the audience like an orchestra while elucidating the lesser known corners of Shakespeare’s life, leading up to a great and inevitable crescendo revealed in the closing minutes of the piece. The piece is part literary criticism, part biography, part obituary, and consistently a rather fawning love letter to a titan of the performing arts world. Shakespeare is presented more in his human acts than his words, which bookend sections exploring how the Bard spent his days flitting between Stratford and London, loving, losing, and coming to be the great Writer that he was.

Through deft characterisation and sincere interest in presenting the Bard as a man in constant flux, Utton is able to reveal a portrait of a life in place of an oeuvre catalogue of Shakespeare’s works, which the piece too easily could have been. At Home with Will Shakespeare has an unusual relationship with the truth – with the man himself considerate of the fact that he was loose with the truths in his works, yet with the piece so feverishly focused on rattling off facts, or revisions to the supposed facts, of Shakespeare’s life.

It can be hard to draw a concise line in your head as a viewer as to what you’re being asked to believe at times, not complimented by the fact that at points facts are being rattled off at breakneck pace. The piece at times does feel a little like a Ted Talk delivered by the Bard (which is not by any means a bad concept for a play), but thankfully draws more closely on its emotive sections to deliver an impact.

Utton is able to transition between lightly dancing through the feelings and thoughts behind Shakespeare’s life decisions and writing process, and into the darker sides of his psyche as he is haunted by the premature death of his young son, and his lovers’ abandonment of him in his moments of proudest achievements. Utton is an unbelievable charismatic orator, complimented by the warm demeanour he projects onto Shakespeare and his ability to confer so much emotion in his wildly expressive face, leaving the piece static yet never unmoving.

This love letter to the bard becomes a refreshed obituary through enchanting and elucidatory storytelling. Fact and fiction collide, with heavy fact sections, yet Utton keeps you in his palm entirely throughout.

Recommended Drink: Head down to Wilson’s, grab yourself a few pints with the Bard himself, and try not to regret the hangover the following day.

Catch At Home with Will Shakespeare as part of Prague Fringe at A Studio Rubin until the 31st May. Tickets are available through the Prague Fringe Box Office.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them