TWO GENTELEMENT OF VERONA: William Shakespeare
Brighton Dome to 29 May
Part of the Brighton Festival
Run time: 2 hours 45 minutes (including a 20 minute interval)
Dates: 25th – 28th May, 6pm; 26th, 28th and 29th, 1:30pm
Tickets available online through the Brighton Festival website
Review: Blair Hunter-Coleridge, 26 May 2016
Buffed up Bright and Beautiful (and at times Breezy)
Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered by many to be one of his weaker plays, but after seeing this brilliant open-air collaboration between Sha
kespeare’s Globe and The Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse you will have difficulty believing it.
The play follows the trials of Proteus (Dharmesh Patel) and Valentine (Guy Hughes), two Veronian noblemen in love with Julia and Sylvia respectively.
But this is a Shakespearean comedy and the deliciously touchy-feely ‘bromance’ between the two actors is threatened when the former suddenly switches his affections to Sylvia, the sassy Milano beloved of his best friend.
Proteus then catches Valentine plotting an elopement, betrays him and plunges events into further chaos.
Patel excels as the conflicted and duplicitous protagonist. His performance showcases a veritable smorgusboard of talents, including an impressive emotional register and excellent command of space.
While Leah Brotherhead is also outstanding as Julia, bringing fire to the role of the female lead. She deserves especial commendation for her assertive and authoritative diction which held up admirably against a freshening, sea breeze.
The real star of the show though is almost certainly the director, Nick Bagnall. His decision to scale back on the set design and let Shakespeare’s verse take care of the aesthetics comes off brilliantly.
Prop use is similarly sparse, again helping to keep the focus on Shakespeare’s language, though what little Bagnall and his actors do deploy are used to outstanding effect.
The most ingenious of these is an inspired substitution of record players for letter openers as Proteus’ and Valentine’s love letters find their way to the audience’s ears via song. Indeed, music is a key driver of this production; the shifts in backdrop between Verona and Milan are heralded not by a set-based scene change but a lithe-limbed and tropical little Latino number that has the audience clapping along at every outing.
Other highlights of the evening included seeing what efficient and inventive uses the company could find for the theatre’s two-tiered stage, a brace of strong supporting performances and, of course, the perplexing and ever-amusing canine, Crab, played by lead musician Fred Thomas.
Launce: Charlotte Mills
Proteus: Dharmesh Patel
Duke: Garry Cooper
Speed: Adam Keats
Valentine: Guy Hughes
Sylvia: Aruhan Galieva
Julia: Leah Brotherhead
Lucetta: Amber James
Musician and Crab the Dog: Fred Thomas
Director: Nick Bagnall
Designer: Katie Sykes
Composer: James Fortune