'A Gift to the Future' & 'The Lover, The Wife'

Tue 31st January – Thu 9th February 2012


Sarah Feldman

at 11:26 on 2nd Feb 2012



‘A Gift to the Future’ and ‘The Lover, the Wife’ are two very different plays performed in the same evening, split by an interval. The juxtaposition of a historical tale and one which explores themes of love, sex, sexual orientation to name just some of its themes, is interesting. If either stood alone they would perhaps not be so effective as together; since they are so different, it means one’s attention does not wane in the second due to its entirely different nature to the former, although they perhaps appeal to different tastes.

The quality of the acting was high, which is to be expected considering the company has begun its UK tour following a well-reviewed debut in Jerusalem and then Paris. The nature of the performances, in particular ‘A Gift to the Future’, was most intimate due to the use of only three actors between the two plays, and the compact layout of the theatre. The deconstruction of the fourth wall between the audience and the actor really aided the creation of the character of John Heminges, which the audience was then able to relate to in the recounting of his tales, much as one relates to a family member of a different generation recounting their life events. Perhaps in drawing this comparison it is evident how convincing the performance was, as I frequently found the amateur historian in me (despite the fictional nature of this tale) pondering questions that I would have liked to pose to a man with such an intimate knowledge of Shakespeare’s life. Certainly the majority of the audience engaged with any repartee with the character and so enhanced the atmosphere of this performance. Due to the more involved nature of this part of the show, I personally found it more engaging than the latter, although the latter was certainly more thought provoking. The simplistic nature of the set, and indeed the avoidance of the use of the built stage entirely, instead using part of the auditorium floor as the stage, helped enhance this sense of intimacy, while the props of old books were frequently incorporated into the performance along with excerpts of Shakespeare. This helped to both give pace and a sense of direction to the narrative of this one man play and I would argue that the simplistic nature of the set was much more effective than a complicated one would have been.

As regards to the second play, while I found it took me longer to be absorbed into the plot of this play, the themes raised were more thought provoking. In particular, I found the exploration of how different social classes can perceive and experience deprivation intriguing, and how the collision of two very different characters brings changes to both their lives, thus inducing reflection upon how our own lives are shaped by the individuals with whom we have contact. The character of Christine was infuriating to observe with her prudish mannerisms, however, the level of irritation that she incited is a credit to her effective portrayal by the actor. Although advertised as a tale with a twist and a highly surprising end, I didn’t find the former so much to be the case, which perhaps is why I found this play less engaging than ‘A Gift to the Future’ and perhaps less so than other audience members who had not predicted the final event. This said, the end was still unexpected and therefore enjoyable. The conclusion of the play created a sense of the tale having come full circle, which meant that it provided satisfaction until the end of the evening.

Overall, while a door ticket price of £12.50 might seem steep on a student budget, for a professional performance I feel it is worthwhile and as the venue has only recently converted to a theatre within the last few weeks, you will be providing support to a new theatre. A word of caution though, the theatre is freezing so wrap up warm or enjoyment of the performance will be greatly diminished by intense shivering!


Tom Kenning

at 11:28 on 2nd Feb 2012



‘A Gift to the Future’ and ‘The Lover, and the Wife’ Review

This double bill production certainly offers something totally different on both occasions. Interest in the history of Shakespeare may be inspired by ‘A Gift to the Future’, which casts off the classroom dullness of many encounters with Shakespeare through its amiable lead character John Hemmings. On the other hand, ‘The Lover, and the Wife’ excites with its surprising twists and exploration of family values and sexual liberation. The location at Bristol’s Bierkeller, however, was unfortunate due to the cold and both plays contained a sustained period of dullness and inaction at some point.

‘A Gift to the Future’

Here one of the great pieces of literary history is illuminated by the overturning of the usual perspective of the historian. Here one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries recounts the life and events of William Shakespeare, with occasional quotes from the various plays.

Anyone wishing to know more about Shakespeare’s history will certainly be enlightened by the script, however, the choice of Shakespeare passages read out by the protagonist seemed obvious, clichéd and rather irrelevant. This meant that anyone remotely familiar with Shakespeare will find themselves ever so slightly underwhelmed by the lack of originality.

The actor playing John Heminges sometimes mumbled and this problem was intensified by the extreme cold of the Bierkeller venue. I found myself having to put on a scarf and hat indoors five minutes into the production. The protagonist was, however, extremely amiable and gave off a wise and erudite aura. In many ways his role was to pull off an informal and conversational tone to make the audience feel comfortable while simultaneously offering insightful knowledge of historical events. At this he was very successful, but for one man to hold the show for the best part of an hour seemed strained.

‘The Lover and the Wife’

The first 40 minutes of this play were certainly difficult to stay engaged with, due to the lack of incident and the difficulty for the audience in knowing where the major themes of this play were going to come from. Nevertheless as the plot unfolded it became an evocative and gripping piece, which spanned issues of women’s rights, sexuality, marriage, class, and modern liberation versus Victorian suppression. Several shocks in the latter half of the play made it all worth the wait. The actress playing Lydia Martin gave a powerful performance, which was eye-catching. ‘The Lover and The Wife’ was thought-provoking, but it took too long to get to the most emotionally engaging parts.

In both plays stage production was minimal, but this was not important due to the nature of the scripts.


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