Reviewed by Janice Bailey
It is a widely held belief that the The Two Gentlemen of Verona is the first complete play written by William Shakespeare. Given that Shakespeare’s plays were written to entertain the monarchs as well as the volatile proletariat, his writing style had to encompass both. The language in this play certainly does that. There are the eloquent speeches from the main characters, Proteus, played with panache by Alex Antoniou and the ‘betrayed’ Valentine, played confidently by Matthew Chapman, as they profess their love for their respective maidens. This is lightened by the mischievous banter of Lance, played impeccably and with gusto by the talented Matt Houston – who is not even upstaged by the appealing Crab, played by the very handsome Diesel the dog. Bonnie McAllister as the ‘betrayed’ Julia, is effective in her quest to win back the affection of Proteus, while Kate van der Horst makes it quite clear that she is not interested in the protestations of love from Proteus.
It is always a risk modernising Shakespeare. Directors Gary George and Angela Short have chosen a play which lends itself well to modern dress and design and in the main they have succeeded. The set design by Michael Vo is simple yet effective, using two levels to create two different settings which can be used concurrently. The ‘costumes’ are simply modern apparel which, in keeping with today’s modern trend, is quite eclectic and not evocative of any particular era.
The biggest flaw in this production is the rhythm. It was opening night and this should improve but it was at times difficult to understand what was being said and then having to ‘translate’ the language. Lindsay Dunn showed his experience as the pace and clarity of his delivery was clear and precise.
This is an entertaining play which starts out lightheartedly but becomes quite dark. Once the problem with rhythm has been resolved it will be well worth a look.
Matt Houston and Deisel as Lance and Crab (photo by Thomas Weidenmann)