THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
by William Shakespeare.
Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 22 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 12 Oct.
BSL Signed 13 Oct 7.45pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 October.
The glass of fashion reflects some Shakespeare.
How much should audiences approach Shakespeare, and how much should Shakespeare, through his interpreters, approach audiences? Around the world the plays are seen through different cultural experience and expectations.
There’s also the question of approachability within Shakespeare’s own country. One way of reaching out has been to appropriate popular styles and fashions to the plays. The 1960s discovered hippy-tripping in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and – one long cultural jump-cut on – the male betrayals and arranged marriages of Two Gentlemen of Verona are being touted through the energised modernity of young, female music-dance group, the scary, gorgeous (their words, for one of their shows) RashDash.
Proteus is the young gent who changes the shape of his desire, ditching Julia for his best-friend Valentine’s Sylvia – whose father has her designed for an upper-crust nonentity.
Her father’s a duke, though Matthew Dunster’s production replaces social class with high fashion, Julia running a boutique and Sylvia involved in the world of style and photo-shoots. Her father seems more interested in her marriage as a means to bring her intended close to his own rough sexual world; the discovery of Thurio’s cowardice is a personal let-down for the high-booted Duke. And changing sex among the servant class brings a rare sympathetic, angle to romantic entanglements there.
Their approach allows Dunster and RashDash collaboratively to introduce plenty of high-gloss, recognisably modern visuals against a three-tier skeletal background which seems ready to accommodate Jailhouse Rock. Yet it’s all-too recognisable. This is modern chic, fashionable, sexy, cold-hearted, and temptingly theatrical, without genuine emotion.
It sometimes suits. But, rather than create a new audience for Shakespeare, the contrast of visual display and script, when awkwardly matched, risks fragmenting audiences into ’I liked the look, but what was it about?’ and ‘Couldn’t they just do the play?’ camps.
Certainly some cast members seem happier with movement than speech, though not Alexander Cobb’s Proteus. Handling soliloquies properly as thought-processes, his surprisingly self-aware love-rat has a depth little evident elsewhere. Though when the production goes for complete comic effect, with its bearded women outlaws aping male mannerisms, it’s suddenly genuinely funny.
Lucetta/Outlaw/Bell Hop Girl/Ursula: Charlotte Broom.
Eglamour/Pantino: Kingsley Ben-Adir.
Proteus: Alexander Cobb.
Valentine: Joe Doyle.
Duke/Antonio: Matthew Flynn.
Julia: Abbi Greenland.
Silvia/Outlaw: Helen Goalen.
Thurio: Malachi Kirby.
Speed: Vicki Manderson.
Launce/Outlaw: Clemmie Sveaas.
Musician/Outlaw: Becky Wilkie.
Director: Matthew Dunster.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Assistant director: Laura Keefe.