Circa Theatre
May 29-June 27 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

All the World’s a Stage is billed as a “round-the-bard trip in 90 minutes with Ray Henwood”. According to the programme, Henwood conceived of the one man show as “a way to introduce the playwright to those who felt he was not for them, and also to offer to those who knew the work a chance to revisit some of the highlights.” He was also inspired by John Gielgud’s Ages of Man. Henwood presents an engaging ‘greatest hits’ of Shakespearean speeches. It is a highly accessible work that will satisfy most, although those with a greater depth of knowledge of the Bard’s work will perhaps hunger for some of the richer, darker fare that they know lurks within the folio pages.

Henwood is excellently suited as a actor to presenting the work of Shakespeare – he is an experienced performer, with a rich voice and an engaging stage persona. The minimalist set and his black costume provides just the right amount of augmentation to his performance. Henwood benefits from the skillful direction of Peter Hambleton, another experience performer of Shakespeare’s works. The show is given variety by Henwood’s commentary about Shakespeare’s works and his own experience of them. Excerpts from Teri Pratchett’s parody, Wryd Sisters, are also included. Several of the best known sonnets are thrown in for good measure. The show is well structured, beginning with the speeches of youthful characters, progressing through those coming to mature wisdom (with a focus on King Henry V) and culminating with old age.

The show strikes me as being perfect for touring, so that Henwood can fulfil his goal of it being an introduction to or re-acquaintance with Shakespeare for as many as possible. It presents an opportunity to see an excellent actor deliver some of the stage’s most immortal words.