TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA: William Shakespeare
RSC The Swan and on tour
Runs: 2h 40m, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 30 November 2004

Some good performances, but in general lacks the vital ingredient for an engaging productionTwo Gents is a difficult play to bring off its clockwork plotting, thin characterisation and frequently self-conscious word play do not readily make for an engaging evening. Exceptional productions (and I have seen them) can make it work. In Fiona Buffini’s production, however, nearly everyone including the director seems out of their depth. It’s a sadly lacklustre affair; it feels tired as if it’s been touring for months and months and months.

Gents an early play; it has a youthful energy even innocence about it. Without this energy which sustains the comedy too, the play amounts to little. And no sudden bursts of numbers of people rushing into the space shouting and whooping makes up for this lack.

Rachel Pickup’s Sylvia stands out among the young people. She cuts an extremely elegant figure, exuding breeding and dosh in equal measures. As a performer she looks as if she’s enjoying herself too which strikes up the all-important relationship with us. Andrew Melville’s Launce has a lot going for it too. He has a more hang-dog expression about him than his dog, Crabb (played by Ria). His opening set piece monologue (weeping at leaving home) is underplayed but is more than made up for in a later section a duologue with Speed (a lively performance from Simon Watts) about a future wife. It’s terribly unsound, but you can’t help laughing in spite of yourself.

Any production of this play must revolve around the two young men Valentine and Proteus. Alex Avery pushes his Valentine along but somehow lacks the charm to take us with him. Laurence Mitchell, aiming, I guess, for a bookish Proteus, is played at too measured a pace throughout to keep the action moving. In his scene with Valentine in the second half, in which, aiming to steal Valentine’s woman, he urges him to flee, neither he, nor director, Buffini, seem to be aware of the comedic context.

Valentine: Alex Avery
Proteus: Laurence Mitchell
Sylvia: Rachel Pickup
Duke of Milan: Christopher Saul
Sylvia’s Bodyguard: Richard Copestake
Julia: Vanessa Ackerman
Lucetta: Brigid Zengeni
Speed: Simon Watts
Launce: Andrew Melville
Crabb: Ria
Antonio: Patrick Romer
Panthino: Adrian Schiller
Thurio: Zubin Varla
Eglamour: Gary Oliver
Outlaws: Richard Clews, Clifford Samuel, Philip Edgerley
Newspaper Boy: Merryn Owen
Sailor: Simon Scot
Lady: Endy McKay
Lady: Emma Powell

Directed by: Fiona Buffini
Designed by: Liz Ascroft
Lighting Designed by: Neil Austin
Music Composed by Conor Linehan
Sound Designed by: Martin Slavin
Movement and Choreography by: Lynne Page
Fights Directed by Terry King
Assistant Director: Gemma Fairlie
Music Director: Malcolm Newton
Company Voice Work by: David Carey
Voice Work on Tour by Jan Haydn Rowles
Casting Director: John Cannon

2004-12-02 11:24:38

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