Twenty years after the film Shakespeare in Love, starring Joseph Fiennes as the Bard and Gwyneth Paltrow as his gender-confused muse Viola de Lesseps, won seven Oscars, the stage adaptation of Tom Stoppard’s love letter to theatre is set for its Australian premiere.

Shakespeare in Love Gabriela Tylesova’s costume sketch for Viola in Melbourne Theatre Company’s Shakespeare in Love

The tale argues that a sexy romp cured writer’s block and created the greatest romantic comedy about tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Stoppard had written all the film’s dialogue based on Marc Norman’s story, says fellow British playwright and screenwriter Lee Hall, but when Stoppard became too busy to take on the theatre adaptation, the task fell to Hall.

“Tom gave me free reign to do exactly what I liked,” says Hall, the creator of Billy Elliot, who wrote the screenplay for the film and the book and lyrics for the musical. “The first draft we worked through line by line and it was one of the scarier moments of my career when I got my homework marked by Tom Stoppard, who’s been my hero as long as I can remember. I learned so much shaking...