Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • SWEET WILLIAM • Little Angel Theatre • 2007

pennington_michaelWhat a glorious marriage of two theatrical institutions. The Little Angel Theatre, Islington, the spiritual and actual home of the finest of British puppetry, has broadened its dramatic appeal by inviting that veteran of Shakespearean acting, Michael Pennington, to stage his one-man tribute to William Shakespeare, Sweet William.

The Little Angel is such an intimate and inviting space. Where better to spend a drizzly summer’s evening in the company of Pennington. The dark auditorium and serried ranks of cushioned pews were packed with young and old alike as Pennington embarked on a theatrical journey that spanned his own, and his hero’s, lifetimes. Dressed by nothing more than a finely-wrought Victorian chair, the stage provided the simplest and most complementary backdrop for this journey.

Pennington’s style is so easy and relaxed, so immediately endearing, that it belies the incredible discipline and skill that such an intimate expression of acting demands. Immediately, Pennington lets us into his personal secret. As a young 11 year-old schoolboy he was forced, albeit not actually kicking and screaming, but almost, to a production of Macbeth at the Young Vic. This meeting with Shakespeare was to change his life forever.

After more years than we would care to mention, Pennington can confirm that he has spent over twenty thousand hours so far recreating Shakespearean drama, for himself and his public. Sweet William celebrates this ‘love-affair’ perfectly.

Interspersed with snippets from well-known and not-so-well-known Shakespearean plays, Sweet Williamexplores the life and times of Shakespeare with fascinating clarity and simplicity, as well as gloriously irreverent humour. This is no glorification of the Bard, but an evocation of a man of his times, who could be as “sizeist, sexist, xenophobic and dirty-minded,” to use Pennington’s own words, as the worst of us.

Pennington describes what little we know of Shakespeare’s early life as a well-paid jobbing actor, desperate to put his own words into his colleagues mouths. In the process, Pennington displays his talent for character-study and mimicry. One moment childish prince, the next distraught Egyptian queen, Pennington brings these characters to life with an immediacy that is, to say the least, breathtaking.

Most poignant, however, is the actor’s portrayal of the waning years of Shakespeare’s creative process, reflected in the pathos of a dying Lear or the reminiscences of a native Warwickshire. Pennington’s own acting career and his desire to re-politicize the texts for a modern audience is reflected in these evocations of a lifetime’s work. It has not been work for Pennington; it has been a passion.

Sweet William should be added to the National Curriculum as a must-see production for all school-age (and adult) children. You will never get a better introduction to Shakespeare or a more passionate exploration of his drama and poetry. Pennington’s love-letter to a dear friend is unique in its originality and worthy of the packed houses which this opening night at the Little Angel Theatre portends.

Kevin Quarmby © 2007

Originally published on R&V 22-08-07


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day


Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College


Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....


Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork


by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

The poor side of life

Exposing the unfair treatment of jobseekers, the horrors of Universal Credit, unfair sanctions and heinous treatment of claimants at Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre.

Art by Vicky Paton

Canadian Abstract Artist

Politics and Insights

Public interest issues, policy, equality, human rights, social science and analysis


Supporting the rich amateur theatre scene on the Isle of Wight

Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography - Blog

Images and stories of nature, science and conservation.

Sarah Ditum

Writing, etc.

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

%d bloggers like this: