It all began when we produced the world premiere of Smith’s first verse play, Sweet Love Adieu. The out-door production took place in the Roman Amphitheatre in St. Albans, England, in the summer of 2001. Unexpectedly, hundreds of audience members turned up as word got around that there was a new bard in town – and that he was rather good! The local new teams showed up and we received our first glowing review from a professional theatre critic. Happy days.
“There IS culture…highly accomplished…
this play’s a comic delight!”
Ryan J-W Smith in the world premiere of his Sweet Love Adieu
Interview with Ryan J-W Smith on BBC 3 Counties Radio (2001)
Ryan J-W Smith and Romy Tennant perform live on BBC Radio
In 2003, things got a little more serious when we received funding from Arts Council England to produce Smith’s, Sweet Love Adieu in the ruins of Yorkshire’s famous Whitby Abbey. Once again the local new teams arrived, including a BBC News crew, and we received more glowing reviews. Our resident writer/director/producer was also asked to do an unprecedented amount of BBC radio interviews – one sample of which you’ll find below.
“Takes one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies and turns it into an hilarious comedy”British Theatre Guide
“Methinks it’s a treat!”Whitby Gazette
Interview with Ryan J-W Smith on BBC Radio Leeds (2003)
In 2005, Ryan received more funding from Arts Council England, this time to write his third verse play, Love Labours Won. Loves Labours Won would subsequently turn out to be one of the best-selling theatre shows the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has ever seen…
Rogue Shakespeare started making serious waves in the world of theatre when we produced the world premiere of Smith’s third verse play, Love Labours Won, in the massive Debating Hall at the famous Gilded Balloon venue. Huge crowds came; reviewers adorned the show with 4 and 5-star reviews, and the show was awarded ‘Pick of the Fringe’.
The original cast of Smith’s Love Labours Won in 2006.
“the best Shakespearean comedy not written by Shakespeare – this is unmissable!”3 Weeks
“Smith is one to watch”Fringe Review
“there are not many Fringe productions pulling the size of audience this is’”British Theatre Guide
“This Shakespearean-style verse comedy is pacy and well performed”One4Review
“a mesmerizing work from a young writer whose career we should follow very closely”Hairline
“The brilliant wit of Ryan J-W Smith”Art'icle Magazine
“Go see it and watch great theatre in action.”UK Theatre Network
“brilliantly pacy, well-balanced and intriguing… bravo Ryan!”The Dewsbury Reporter
If we thought 2006 was good, 2007 was just crazy good. Rogue Shakespeare was invited by the Gilded Balloon to bring Smith’s, Love Labours Won, back to the massive Debating Hall for a second year. The crowds were even bigger; the reviewers were delighted, the show was awarded ‘Pick of the Fringe’ for a second year straight and Ryan was awarded Best Fringe Promoter by the Observer – a national UK newspaper.
“A corker of a production!
With the fiercely talent Smith at the helm, expect to hear loads about this company in the future.”UK Theatre Network
“Smith – master of the iambic pentameter, cleverly matches Shakespeare at his own game”Hairline
From left to right, Jade Allen as Duke Caesus, Emma Canalese as Annabelle and Victoria Porter as Edmund performing Smith’s Love Labours Won, 2007.
“I don’t make a practice of going to see a Fringe show two years running. Was it worth sacrificing one of my slots? It was.”
“still excellent…Smith has done an astonishing job
Shakespeare would thoroughly approve of this company’s skill and vaulting ambition”
“Smith is to my point of view far better than anything that came out of Stratford. It’s easy to see why is was so critically acclaimed last year.”One4Review
Fringe Promoter of the Year 2007 – Ryan J-W SmithThe Observer
Sometimes you have to risk everything. In 2008, Smith and Rogue Shakespeare took a massive gamble by returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with something very different from his highly successful comedy, Love Labours Won. Smith’s fourth verse play, New World Order, is a darkly political a one-man show.
Smith’s gamble paid off, and he was rewarded with unanimous praise as a writer, director, producer and actor.
New World Order received nothing but 4 and 5-star reviews and Smith was nominated for The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.
“One piece that is really essential to see is Ryan J-W Smith’s New World Order”Edinburgh Guide
“Performed immaculately…it should be missed by no one”Fringe Review
“sharply scripted in verse…
Smith’s honest, gritty delivery”
“one man epic…Smith gives an extremely powerful performance”One4Review
“Smith has written an incredible play here…
a compelling, challenging piece of theatre”
“Fringe acclaimed over the last two years, Smith returns with a much more bitter pill…
stunning and convincingly delivered”List Magazine
Rogue Shakespeare and Smith were invited to bring New World Order to the Brisbane Writers Festival in Australia late 2008. Smith performed New World Order in the prestigious Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts – in the audience sat dignitaries including the mayor of Brisbane. Amy Bradney-George, writer for the Sydney Morning Herald was also in the audience, and gave the show a stunning review.
The Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane, Australia.
“Few performances I’ve seen have been as gripping, touching and perceptive as New World Order
Transitions between the three characters are so smooth it’s easy to forget there is only one person on stage. Adept use of physicality and vocal nuances mark each character and compliment the depth of the text. Suspending disbelief is an almost unconscious act from start to finish.“
In 2010, Rogue Shakespeare and Smith started to move into film production. We cast some lovely ladies, got a nice camera, some delicious primes lenses, a jib, etc, and had some fun shooting a feature film version of Love Labours Won. As he did in our 2007 theatre version, Smith went for an all-female cast, with girls playing the male parts. And while this is, of course, very different from the stage version – it should give you an idea of what Smith’s verse comedy is all about. Here’s a small preview.
In 2012, Rogue Shakespeare and Smith moved further into film production. Smith wrote, directed, produced and starred in his 5th short film, The Poet Cursed. The film was premiered in the short film corner at the 65th Cannes Film Festival and was selected for 7 other international film festivals.
Highlights of Smith’s growing accolades as a filmmaker
For the last few years, Rogue Shakespeare and Smith have been pushing deeper into professional film production with two unique feature films that combine narrative film, Smith’s award-winning verse, and documentary. Ryan writes, directs and stars in the forthcoming features, Vaccine War, and 2plus2makes4, the latter also stars Emmy and Golden Globe winner Ed Asner, Tony-nominated Daniel Sunjata, Professor Noam Chomsky and the late and legendary Emmy-nominated Gore Vidal.