Rogue Shakespeare® is a critically-acclaimed international theatre company that has been producing the award-winning verse plays of Ryan J-W Smith since 2001.
Ryan J-W Smith, MA Law (Dist), is a multi-award winning verse playwright and critically-acclaimed poet. To date he has written 7 verse plays, 1 verse screenplay, and over 2,000 Shakespearean sonnets.
With Rogue Shakespeare®, Smith’s accolades include: two-time Hollywood Fringe International Award Winner; two-time Encore Producers’ Award Winner; Hollywood Fringe Comedy Award Nomination; Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award Nomination; Gandhi Foundation Award Recipient; three-time Arts Council England Award Recipient, two-time ‘Pick of the Fringe’ (Edinburgh), The Observer (Newspaper) Fringe Promoter of the Year, and countless professional 4 and 5-star reviews.
Smith’s best-known works include:
PLAYS: (date indicates year of first performance)
Pretty, Witty Nell® (2019)
Love Labours Won (2006)
Sweet Love Adieu (original version, 2001)
Sweet Love Adieu (version II, 2016)
New World Order (2008)
ROGUE SHAKESPEARE: 3 Plays (published in paperback, 2023)
500 Shakespearean Sonnets (published in paperback, 2012)
The Poet Cursed (2012)
Ryan J-W Smith collecting the Hollywood Fringe International Award for the 2nd year in a row, 2016.
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PRETTY, WITTY NELL®
Nominated for the Hollywood Fringe International Award
FROM HOLLYWOOD, 2019 – TO LONDON & NEW YORK, 2023
Pretty, Witty Nell® is Ryan J-W Smith’s 7th verse play. A new and original 55 minute one-woman tragicomedy, written entirely in rhyming iambic pentameter, about Nell Gwynne, the famous actress/prostitute, and mistress of the wild British monarch, King Charles II.
Nell Gwynne c.1670
Pretty, Witty Nell® was premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2019, where it received nothing but glowing reviews from critics and audience members alike (see below); and was nominated for the coveted Hollywood Fringe International Award, which Smith/Rogue Shakespeare® have won twice previously in 2015 & 2016.
Pretty, Witty Nell®, 2023…
In 2023, taking over the role from Melanie Johnson (see below), we introduced Hannah Attfield. Hannah was born in England and trained at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Hannah Attfield and Ryan J-W Smith during rehearsals in London, July 10, 2023
MOST RECENT PERFORMANCE:
Theater Row, 42nd St. New York – September, 2023
Directed by Smith, Hannah performed the role to glowing reviews (see below) in the London/UK premiere. The show then toured, starring Hannah Attfield, to Theater Row on 42nd St. in New York.
Hannah Attfield as Nell Gwynne (photo: Ryan J-W Smith)
2023 LONDON Reviews
We’re flattered to say Pretty, Witty Nell® received some beautiful reviews during it’s short-run London debut. Two reviewers were even inspired to write their reviews in verse!
“Smith‘s writing is exquisite. It’s clever and funny in equal measures and the whole play is written entirely in rhyming iambic pentameter. Of course the rhythm and rhyme were present throughout but they did not take over the piece and at times you barely noticed it was there. This is a credit to both writer and performer.
Although obviously written and presented in a Shakespearean style, this piece is accessible to all audiences. You don’t need to be a fan of Shakespeare to enjoy this play! Attfield was phenomenal in this piece. It was almost like it had been written especially for her! She was commanding and engaging from the start and kept the audience on her side throughout. She was sexy but also vulnerable and showed real emotion.
Simply put this play is a work of genius.
Genius writing, genius direction and genius acting.”
Mark Aspen Reviews:
Broadway World preview of Pretty, Witty Nell – June 7, 2023
“Reenacted intricately and with flair
By this gentle wench, who knows the affair”
“This is impressive – there is a lot of pleasure to be had in this kind of pastiche”
“Hannah Attfield perfectly plays our Nell. It’s modern, enjoyable Shakespeare; with comedy and tragedy – the lot. The rhyming verse, it pleases the ear. And all a true story, with quite the plot!“
“Pretty, Witty Nell is a truly memorable production, a triumph.”
Some 2023 production photos
All photos star Hannah Attfield as Nell Gwynne; photo credit: Ryan J-W Smith
2019 World Premiere – Pretty, Witty Nell®
Starring Melanie Johnson, Pretty, Witty Nell® was premiered at the Hollywood Fringe in June 2019, where it delighted audiences and reviewers – receiving standing ovations – watch the promo video below for a quick taste.
Melanie Johnson as Nell Gwynne in Smith’s PRETTY, WITTY NELL®
Pretty, Witty Beginnings!
Much like Nell Gwynne herself, Smith’s one-woman tragicomedy had an unorthodox start to life. Originally written in 2017 as the one-woman show we now know and love, Smith subsequently adapted the play into a two-hander farce – and he and his leading lady performed this version the first week of Fringe – before Smith, preferring the original, decided to “fire himself from the stage” and revert back to the one-woman script. It was an incredible challenge for both the playwright/director, and the leading lady herself – one they both rose to. Several reviewers alluded to Smith’s bravery in doing this:
LOVE LABOURS WON
Winner of 2 Hollywood Fringe Awards
Written by Smith in 2005, and first performed in 2006 by Rogue Shakespeare®, Love Labours Won has delighted thousands of audience members. Accolades include two Pick of the Fringe (Edinburgh) selections and winning the Hollywood Fringe Festival’s highly coveted International Award (2015), as well as an Encore! Producers’ Award (2015). As you will see below, it has had countless 4 and 5 star reviews.
Ryan J-W Smith receiving The International Award
at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Awards Ceremony (photo: Matt Kamimura)
The delighted cast of the award-winning 2015 Hollywood revival of Smith’s Love Labours Won
Love Labours Won
VERY LIMITED EDITION PAPERBACK!
published in 2015 – the Hollywood Fringe script!
(LLW has since been updated by the author)
£9.99 + shipping
“an original, comedic Shakespearean pastiche written entirely in rhyming iambic verse by acclaimed British playwright, Ryan J-W Smith. Love Labours Won is one of the most acclaimed plays ever to come out of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.”
“…a thrill hearing Smith’s verse, a reminder that the old forms still hold up under new hands. A good time, to be sure.”
Audience Reviews – Hollywood Fringe 2015
‘PICK OF THE FRINGE’ – 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.
…a damned good romp”
“A corker of a production!
With the fiercely talent Smith at the helm, expect to hear loads about this company in the future.”
“Smith – master of the iambic pentameter, cleverly matches Shakespeare at his own game”
“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.”
Smith’s Love Labours Won was a box-office and critically-acclaimed hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006 and 2007
Jade Allen as Caesus, Emma Canalese as Annabelle and Victoria Porter as Edmund in the critically-acclaimed all-female revival of Love Labours Won, in the Gilded Balloon Debating Hall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007.
The very long line-up of over 220 audience members waiting to see Smith’s Love Labours Won on August 4th, 2007
Two cast members, Emily Lawrence and Clare Harlow, showcase Love Labours Won to a packed crowd at Fringe Sunday, Edinburgh, 2007.
Smith has done an astonishing job…
Shakespeare would thoroughly approve of this company’s skill and vaulting ambition”
Fringe Promoter of the Year 2007 – Ryan J-W Smith
‘PICK OF THE FRINGE’ – 2006
The original cast of the world premiere of Smith’s Love Labours Won, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2006
“the best Shakespearean comedy not written by Shakespeare – this is unmissable!”
“Go see it and watch great theatre in action.”
“there are not many Fringe productions pulling the size of audience this is’”
“Smith is one to watch”
“a mesmerizing work from a young writer whose career we should follow very closely”
“The brilliant wit of Ryan J-W Smith”
“This Shakespearean-style verse comedy is pacy and well performed”
“brilliantly pacy, well-balanced and intriguing… bravo Ryan!”
Sweet Love Adieu (version I)
Smith wrote his first verse play, Sweet Love Adieu, whilst studying for his BA in Theatre Studies at Trinity College, back in 1999. After graduating, he formed Rogue Shakespeare® and produced the world premiere in 2001 at the open-air Roman Amphitheatre in St. Albans, England. Since then Sweet Love Adieu has been produced many times internationally, by various companies, including at the Edinburgh Fringe; in New Jersey; North Carolina; Cleveland, and off-Broadway in Theatre Row on 42nd Street (in New York City).
The world premiere of Sweet Love Adieu (v.1) took place at the Roman Amphitheatre in St. Albans, England in 2001.
“There IS culture…highly accomplished…
this play’s a comic delight!”
“Farcical, bawdy, a treat! A great piece of entertainment”
“an Oscar Wilde twist to the basic Romeo and Juliet plot… keeping the comedy high… played with deliciously sharp-edged tongues…
“Definitely Shakespeare for a modern audience”
“Takes one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies and turns it into an hilarious comedy”
“Methinks it’s a treat!”
Smith backstage as ‘William’ in his Sweet Love Adieu in 2001
Sweet Love Adieu open-air in Hoboken, NJ with NYC skyline, 2005.
Sweet Love Adieu was also performed at Whitby Abbey, in Yorkshire England in 2003, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England.
Gray Hawks as William and Courtney Wright as Anne in Sweet Love Adieu, Wilmington, NC, 2005.
Ryan has appeared almost countless times on BBC radio over the years – here’s just one example from way back in 2003.
Ryan J-W Smith on BBC Radio Leeds (2003)
Buy the book!
Buy the limited edition (2nd edition) of Sweet Love Adieu (version 1) here:
Sweet Love Adieu (version II)
Nominated for a Hollywood Fringe Award 2016
In 2016, Smith completely re-wrote his first verse play into an electrifying new version – “a bawdy, saucy, filthy farce in five outrageous acts” – which he premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival that year.
Sweet Love Adieu was nominated for the International Award (won that year by Smith’s other contender, MacDeth!). And, as you can see from the reviews, this new version also delighted critics and audiences alike.
Lance Frantzich as Magistrate and Ryan J-W Smith as Sidney in Smith’s Sweet Love Adieu (version II)
“a non-stop, hilarious, irreverent (if not fully raunchy) parody… a loving tribute to the Bard of Avon, from Smith – a bard in his own right… GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!”
“The pain that this play causes results from laughter”
“Smith plates out another wordtastic dish for the educated masses and hits the mark once more…GO SEE THIS!!!”
“The best show we have been to at the Fringe, and is sure to be a winner in whatever categories it is entered in. I highly recommend it, just wonderful!”
“simply delightful. It’s one of the funniest stage plays I’ve seen.”
“A Writer-Director-Actor is a TRIPLE threat but RYAN J-W SMITH has TWO shows running in rep, so that makes him a SEXTUPLE threat – with the emphasis on Sex (and free chocolate)! Conversational Iambic Pentameter takes some getting used to, but once you’re in the game – from the moment the 8 players greet you before the show starts – it seems as natural as the unnatural things they do!
Shakespearean Satire is tricky, but this trouple pulls it off with elan, thanks to a sound script that seems like something Will might have WISHED he’d thought of himself.”
“Smart, funny, bawdy, awesome! The creator of my personal favorite show from HFF 15 does it again – there is so much comedic brilliance in the writing and in the performances. My words fail me, Ryan J-W Smith’s never do. Go if you possibly can!”
Winner of 2 Hollywood Fringe Awards 2016
Another original Smith verse comedy written entirely in rhyming iambic pentameter.
Imagine Monty Python trying to perform MacBeth and you have an idea of what you can expect from Smith’s award-winning riot, MacDeth! Premiered at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival by Rogue Shakespeare® it played to completely sold-out houses and won Smith another Hollywood Fringe International Award and an Encore! Producers’ Award – along with a nomination for the Hollywood Fringe Comedy Award – all with heaps of acclaim from fans and professional critics alike.
“SHOWS TO SEE – MACDETH!.. lighten up the classic study in evil with a touch of Monty Python”
“Fringe award-winner Ryan J-W Smith, no stranger to the words of the Bard, offers up an abbreviated version of the the Scottish Play that races along at lightning speed, peppered with comedic asides and modern references.”
“The reinventions keep coming… from the iconoclastic British writer and poet, Ryan J-W Smith”
GOLD AWARD – “Ryan J-W Smith’s painfully clever, pugnaciously subversive, and decidedly funny sendoff of Shakespeare’s Scottish play”
Broadway World announced Rogue Shakespeare’s return:
“MacDeth! is a clever and hilarious Monty Pythonesq send up of The Great Bard’s classic tale of ‘MacBeth’. The script, written by Ryan J-W Smith in rhyming Shakespearean-style verse, is nothing short of brilliant.
Writer and director, Smith’s turn as MacDeth exhibits an obviously accomplished actor of impeccable comedic timing and presence, boldly leading his ensemble to the promised land – a full house and standing ovation.”
“WHAT TO SEE FOR SURE – MACDETH! – a wild comedy of errors”
“THE CLASSICS – British playwright/poet, Ryan J-W Smith, who garnered two awards (including the International Award) at Hollywood Fringe 2015, brings his Rogue Shakespeare theatre company back with two new Bard-esque farces, performed in two venues.”
“We saw MacDeth! Highly recommend this one-of-a-kind show!”
“MACDETH! is outrageous, clever, political, disgusting, hilarious! This show is a must see! It’s brilliant… Loved it!”
“EDITOR PICKS – MACDETH!”
“Shakespeare collides with Monty Python in Ryan J-W Smith’s award-winning raucous verse comedy.”
New World Order
Nominated for an Amnesty International Award 2008
New World Order, Smith’s only one-man verse play, performed, directed and produced by Smith, was nominated for The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2008 and received nothing but 4 and 5-star reviews.
“One piece that is really essential to see is Ryan J-W Smith’s New World Order”
“Performed immaculately…it should be missed by no one”
“sharply scripted in verse…
Smith’s honest, gritty delivery”
“one man epic…Smith gives an extremely powerful performance”
“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”
“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.“
500 Shakespearean Sonnets
Having now written over 2,000 Shakespearean Sonnets, (yes, that’s not a typo, he’s written over two-thousand), we believe Smith holds the world-record for authoring more Shakespearean Sonnets than any other person in history. A Shakespearean or ‘English’ sonnet is 14 lines long, written in iambic pentameter (5 heartbeats (2 beats – first soft, second strong) per line) with a rhyming structure of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
An honest, unfiltered, spiritual diary in verse, Smith’s first 500 sonnets were published in 2012 and received nothing but glowing reviews from critics and readers alike.
“Shakespeare’s managed to write 154 – Smith has penned more than three times that number.
…splendidly contemporary…a tour de force“
“this collection shows a tremendous talent and deserves to sit alongside your Poes, Plaths, and T.S. Elliots“
“an honest process of learning, healing and repentance…
a collection of inspirational, honest and didactic poetry”
“Candid, spiritual, philosophical and sometimes boldly political… a landmark in literature”
“impressively well-constructed… often startlingly expressive and insightful…
a fascinating and richly detailed picture of the author”
“Masters of the verse – Smith pays homage to the Bard with the must-read collection of his own modern verse“
“Incredibly well written…a poetic achievement.
A great gift for any poetry lover in your life.
“Shakespeare’s record of 154 in his lifetime as breathtaking. But what Ryan J-W Smith has achieved is simply awe-inspiring…
a very truthful portrayal of life…beautifully crafted… highly recommended“
These sonnets are truly brilliant as they express deep inspired psychological truths in well very crafted, rhymed and beautiful sonnets. The meanings are deep – but for anyone looking for the path to Liberation they contain many profound insights and clues. The best book of contemporary poetry I have come across since the Four Quartets.
I started 500 Shakespearean Sonnets at Sonnet 1, and I am making my way, slowly and surely, one masterpiece, by one. Ryan J-W Smith noted in his introduction that if anyone were to do this it would be in a moment of madness. On the contrary, given the power of the prelude and what he shares around his purpose for writing, for me it was the only option. It would be, and is as expected, the best and most fulfilling way to share the author’s amazing journey of self-healing and discovery. Without question, each piece stands alone with intense authority and is a joy to read. Indeed, in every case the poems actually warrant more than one review. It is a rare opportunity, however to be exposed so explicitly to a fellow human’s fluctuating reflections, raw thoughts and observations. Ryan’s expression and representation is so beautifully real, connected and open, it is wonderfully easy to relate to as a reader. I have giggled to myself about how randomly yet aptly matters have been explained. The vision he has and how this is translated into verse is potent, inspiring and for the reader reassuring and very liberating.
500 Shakespearean Sonnets is an account of an amazing passage. For me it has brought much peace and to the author I am most grateful. May this be true for anyone else who chooses to open their minds and hearts to the beauty of loving themselves and what it is to be human. Enjoy 🙂
The diary of 500 Shakespearean Sonnets is in one word brilliant! Even those who think they would not be interested or fear they may not understand will be massively surprised. It’s written in a modern way which is easy to understand. I pretty much only studied Shakespeare at school so I am no expert but Smith beats Shakespeare for me!
This is a fascinating and beautiful read. Possibly because it was initially written for his own purposes and not intended for publication it is very personal, stark, honest, amusing at times and hauntingly lovely at others. His writing style is superb, a true wordsmith, it can be simple and raw or more complex and intricate depending on the subject and presumably his mood at the time of writing each sonnet. They are consistently well written and give a glimpse into the mind of the author and his musings for that day. Given the quality of the writing is arresting enough to capture your attention, it is also gratifying that the subject matter in itself is also well worth the read. His observations on matters of ego, self, humanity and the mind are at times stunning. I look forward to more from this talented and rare Man.
truly worth reading
Hi. Just bought the new book of Ryan J-W Smith “500 Shakespearean Sonnets”. And I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for some NON FAKE poetry, which is actually quite rare now…
I find this book quite inspirational starting from it’s introduction. The author is incredibly honest and sincere to his audience and not many of us would be able to talk about ourselves so open and critical. The same feeling you can get by reading the Sonnets. You can sense straightaway that these were not created for any commercial purposes – it is purely self expression “product”. And this is the reason why this book is so good. Each day/each sonnet is like a piece of author’s diary: different moods, thoughts and themes. From daily life episodes to the deep analysis of our existence…
By reading each sonnet you can discover something completely new or recognise yourself in it. And maybe start thinking a bit more… 😉
The Poet Cursed
Selected for the Cannes Film Festival, Court Metrage
In 2010, Smith moved into film production producing 4 festival-winning short films that year.
In 2012, Ryan then wrote, directed, produced and starred in his 5th short film, The Poet Cursed, scripted entirely in rhyming iambic verse.
It was premiered in the short film corner at the 65th Cannes Film Festival and was selected for 6 other international film festivals.