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The Two Gentlemen of Verona

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a play of experiment – it’s the work of a writer finding his voice and in it you can see familiar themes and devices being fleshed out.

Simon Godwin’s energetic new production for the RSC marks the first time in 45 years that the play has been performed in full on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage. Godwin’s heightened approach is in keeping with the play’s broad youthful quality. Verona is all pizza, ice cream and helium balloons, while Milan is as slick and glittering as a night club, cool as they come, with a stylish Italianate balcony dominating the stage and everyone, including the band, wearing sunglasses.

Mark Arends, as Proteus, and Michael Marcus, as his childhood friend Valentine, are both engaging in their roles, but it is Pearl Chanda’s Julia who really stands out, her character evolving over the course of the play, growing stronger and wiser, and maybe a little sadder. Sarah MacRae also humanises the potentially unreachable Silvia, the woman for whom both Proteus and Valentine fall. And while Godwin does not shy from the ambiguity of the play’s final scenes and the difficulty of Silvia’s silence, nor does he stint on the comedy. Nicholas Gerard-Martin’s Turio is gifted a play-stealing moment of musical wooing and there’s some fine comic support from a very melancholy dog.

For all its energy as a production, this is still a play of odd shifts in tone, which Godwin can’t quite accommodate, the play’s roughness working against it in the end.

Natasha Tripney

  • Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • July 12-September 4, PN July 22
  • Author: William Shakespeare
  • Director: Simon Godwin
  • Design: Paul Wills set, Bruno Poet lighting, Christopher Shutt sound
  • Technical: Jonathan Goddard movement, Helena Plamer casting, Lily McLeish assistant director
  • Cast includes: Mark Arends, Martin Bassindale, Pearl Chanda, Nicholas Gerard-Martin, Sarah MacRae, Michael Marcus, Roger Morlidge, Leigh Quinn
  • Producer: RSC
  • Running time: 2hrs 45mins

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.