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Shakespeare in Love - Reading and Audition Information

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Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall, based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard Directed by Ben Clare

Key Dates

Reading: Sunday 14th November, 6.00 pm (Coward Suite)

Auditions: Monday 29th November, 7.30 pm (Coward Suite) and Wednesday 1 st December, 7.30 pm (Coward Suite)

Performances: Tuesday 15th - Saturday 19th March 2022 (Auditorium)


Theatre is flourishing again after closure from the plague, and a young playwright by the name of William Shakespeare has shown great promise. Just one problem - he’s got writer’s block. Cue a muse: one Viola De Lesseps, who he promptly falls in love with and inspires him to write one of the greatest romances of all time. At the same time she impersonates a man to play his Romeo. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and Viola is betrothed to the brutish Lord Wessex. ‘Love and a bit with a dog, that's what they want’, says producer Henslowe, who is desperate for a comedy to try and keep the debtors from the door and satisfy the happiness of none other than Queen Elizabeth I. This West End hit from Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall wonderfully adapts the multi-Oscar-winning film by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman and one of the greatest romances about theatre of all time. The list of characters can be found on the following pages.

Watch the Directors Overview of the show


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Playing ages are all approximate. This is a play where men play women and a woman pretends to be a man, so casting against gender specified by the writer is a little more complex than some classical plays. We've suggested where some characters might be played by someone male or female, but this is just a guide, and of course, auditions are very much open to non-binary people and others too.

Will Shakespeare - 30ish (male)

With a few plays under his belt, Will is looking to write a hit but has a case of writer’s block. Not just problematic for a poet and a playwright looking to win the Queen’s favour, but he’s also strapped for cash and he has a wife and children at home in Stratford upon Avon. He’s a romantic, impulsive.

Viola De Lesseps (female) - 20s

A lover of Will’s plays at court, she disguises herself as a man, Thomas Kent, and auditions to play Romeo, but in true Shakespearean style falls in love with the man himself. Daughter of a rich merchant, she is destined to marry Lord Wessex, who she cannot stand.

Nurse (female) - 40s/50s

Has looked after Viola since she was a child, caring for her happiness, she keeps her secrets, and is her closest confidante, helping her cross dress to appear on stage.

Lord Wessex (male) - 30s/40 Will’s opposite in every way - humourless, boorish and stubborn: you could say a classic baddie. Has a title but no money, so makes a deal to marry Viola for her wealth.

Phillip Henslowe (male or female) - 40s/50s

Theatrical impresario and owner of The Rose Theatre in Bankside. Like a modern-day producer, full of cunning and commercial imperative. Desperate for a play with a dog to please the Queen to pay his debts to Fennyman.

Hugh Fennyman (male) - 40s/50s

He’s the money man that finances Henslowe’s theatre - without him the show wouldn’t go on. He’s determined to get his money back from Henslowe and manages to win a key part in Romeo and Juliet.

Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe (male or female) - 30ish

Kit is a very popular playwright in Elizabethan London, and helps Will out with some of his best ideas and words to woo Viola. Until one night tragedy strikes. Queen Elizabeth (female) - about 60 An intimidating, commanding presence whenever she enters. The Queen wants a play to amuse and entertain her. She has some wise words for Viola, knowing just what it’s like to be a woman doing a ‘man’s job’.

Edmund Tilney (male or female) - 60s

Master of the Revels to the Queen, he allowed theatres to flourish in London, however he was also in charge of censorship in the theatre, which included no women on stage.

Ned Alleyn (male) - late 20s/30s

Founder of the prestigious acting troupe, The Admiral’s Men, Ned is full of his own ego and very much considers himself a leading man. Will casts him as Mercutio, deceiving him into thinking it’s the main role.

Richard Burbage (male) - 30s

Burbage became one of the biggest star actors of the time, having recently played Richard III. Falls out with Will when he tries to seduce his wife, and takes the script he promised to Henslowe. Sam (male) - teens With no women permitted on stage, boys were employed to play young women as with Sam, who plays Juliet.

Ralph (male) - 40s/50s

Works in the tavern, but is also an actor. He turns up to rehearsals to play the Pirate King, but ends up playing the Nurse to Juliet.

Nol (male) - 20s

Henslowe takes him from the tavern and makes him an actor in the company. He plays Benvolio and Sampson in Romeo and Juliet. John Webster (male) - teens Somewhat dismissed as a poor actor by Will, he gets his revenge at a key moment. Later goes on to be a famous playwright himself as the author of Jacobean plays such as The Duchess of Malfi.

Wabash (male) - 40s/50s

A wannabe actor and tailor to Henslowe, who owes him money, so he gives him a part in the play. Gets to deliver the infamous ‘Two households both alike in dignity’ opening speech.

Sir Robert de Leseeps (male) - 50s/60s

A wealthy merchant, father of Viola. Determined she will marry Lord Wessex.

Barman / Peter (male) - 20s/30s

Barman who works in the Tavern. Peter is an actor in the company. Boatman / Adam (male) - 30s Boatman rows Viola and Will across the Thames and makes a revelation. Adam is an actor who plays Gregory.

Guard (male or female) - 20s/30s

Brusque guard of the Queen’s court. Frees / Robin (male) - 30s Frees is an associate of Fennyman, helping to collect his debts. Robin is a young actor playing Tybalt and Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet.

Kate (female) - 20s/30s

Works at the tavern; takes an interest in Thomas Kent (Viola in disguise).

Mistress Quickly / Molly (female) - 20s/30s

Mistress Quickly is in charge of costumes for Romeo and Juliet. Molly works at the tavern.