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Prague Fringe 2024

At Home with Will Shakespeare

Pip Utton Theatre Co

Genre: Theatre

Venue: Studio Rubin


Low Down

An intimate opportunity to meet the man behind the famous words, Pip Utton returns to Prague with “At Home with Will Shakespeare”.

Presented by Pip Utton Theatre Co. and playing at Studio Rubin

Written and performed by Pip Utton (and William Shakespeare)

Directed by Nicola Fleming


It felt like a fitting way to meet the man.

The stage inside Studio Rubin is sparse. The set is a disorganised writing desk, a bottle of wine, piles of parchment, and Will’s weapon of choice: the quill. From the moment you enter the cave-like and cramped playing space, you see him, slightly dishevelled and scribbling away, immersed in his words.

The fourth wall breaks as Pip Utton’s script, which is conversational and delightfully human, begins. Will (and Utton) are consummate storytellers and grandiose stories of The King’s Men, The Globe Theatre, and Elizabethan London vacillate between modest memories of a landowning family man from Stratford upon Avon.  

Our main character is a passionate one.  He is forthcoming about his artistic process and playfully educates us about the period and his circumstances, with the help of his own words (and wine). There is an ease, too, with which verses of Shakespeare’s canon are interwoven in the play, delivered with the energy of sharing freshly leaked material for a popular Netflix series. It all feels very now, but then. 

Utton’s groundedness as a writer/performer invites us to see ourselves as Shakespeare’s friend.  We sit opposite his writing desk taking in the tall tales of a prolific poet, ramblings of a drunkard, emotions of a grieving father, musings of a boyish lover, commentary of a prideful businessman, and certainties of a somewhat-suspect historian. At its heart, though, we witness Shakespeare’s humanness through the rushed reflections of an aged man (and genius) facing the culmination of a life well-written. In his finality, his is refreshingly fallible.   

It is in this accessibility that the show shines both in theme and thought.  There is relatability in viewing William Shakespeare’s life sans pedestal. A place where a passionate artist can be both self-aggrandising and admonishingly humble. There is lightness in laughing at the timeless egos of artists like Will’s inability to let go of his rivalry with Ben Johnson or jealousy as he compares his poetry to Christopher Marlowe’s. It’s impossible not to smile as he stews over crafting a monologue for his friend, actor Richard Burbage, or reminisce about the all-day joy of a premiere at the Globe.  

Recently, I had the opportunity to work on a staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s original play “The Book of Will”, a down-to-earth, imaginative take on The King’s Men’s fight to publish the first folio after Shakespeare’s death. It touched my hardening artist’s heart and painted a picture of Shakespeare, and the famous company he kept, as artists who really lived, loved and struggled to make their work known.

Pip Utton’s “At Home With Will Shakespeare” felt like a welcome, extended prologue to this play. I solidly recommend it to all theatre people, Shakespeare aficionados, and Fringe-goers seeking an entertaining and heartfelt portrayal of a famous man known (and unknown) to us all.