By William Shakespeare Shakespeare’s Globe UK open-air tour Reviewed by Sabrina Sully
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA T
here’s nothing more delightful on a beautiful summer’s evening than a picnic in beautiful grounds, preferably with a stately home in the background, watching an open-air play, and they pop up all over the UK, during the summer. Of course it’s always a bit of a gamble with the British weather, but that just adds a frisson of risk. You really have to try it! Shakespeare’s Globe have teamed up with the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Company this summer to tour Two Gentleman of Verona, a cut above the usual outdoor fare. I caught it early in its run in the grounds of the English Heritage site, Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, as part of the Salisbury Festival. When we saw the set, we knew this wasn’t going to be a traditional velvet-and-hose production. In case you don’t know the plot, Valentine decides to leave Verona for the bright lights of Milan. His best friend Proteus won’t go with him as he is in love with Julia, who plays it cool toward him. Valentine falls in love with Sylvia, the Duke of Milan’s daughter, who is supposed to marry the rich but boorish Thurio, so Valentine and Sylvia decide to elope. Julia’s
father Orsini, sends Proteus to Milan on an errand, where he too falls in love with Sylvia, so exposes the elopment plot, and Valentine is banished from Milan. He goes to the woods and becomes chief of a band of outlaws. Proteus woos Sylvia, unsuccessfully. Julia turns up in Milan dressed as a boy servant, and after a bit more plot, well, all’s well that ends well. Director Nick Bagnall and composer James Fortune conceived this as a music-led production, set in 1966. All the action takes place in, on top of, on the ladders of, or in front of, a 60s–looking abstract frame. Location changes are signified by costume change: dull, monochrome, beige, with staid unsexy Jim Reeves music for Verona; Swinging London, with Quincy Jones tracks and the theme from The Italian Job for the pop world of Milan; and Rock’n’Roll, Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters for the ‘darker’ scenes in the woods. All the actors play instruments and sing. In this version Valentine (Guy Hughes) plays a mean guitar, his friend Proteus (Dharmesh Patel), who looks like a young Dr Suresh from the TV series Heroes, dances, (and is a standout actor, as is the ultra-cool
Garry Cooper as the Duke/Antoni, and the Musician/Dog, Fred Thomas, deserves a special mention (not least for his musical virtuosity and dog impersonation). The quality of the acting is excellent by all. This play was of course originally turned into a rock musical back in ‘71, a Broadway hit that won Best Book and Best Musical Tonys and had Stockard Channing and Jeff Goldblum in the chorus! Its last revival was in 2005 by Public Theater, for their Shakespeare in the Park series at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. For me, this is Shakespeare-Lite, a fun and enjoyable production. I appreciated the music and dancing, even if the play got a little lost, or maybe I was distracted by my strawberries and cream.
Further Dates: New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth July 13-16 Oxford Playhouse Plays Out, Bodleian Library, Oxford, July 19-31 Kneehigh’s Asylum, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall Aug 24-28 Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Yorkshire Sept 1-4 Northcott Theatre, Exeter Sept 8 -11 Dundee Rep, Dundee Sept 14 – 16 Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London Sept 20 – Oct 1 Liverpool Everyman Theatre Oct 5 -29