Another excellent review from Frances Dharmalingham:
Last week a group of our members found a perfect shelter from the unseasonable weather by watching the film of the RSC’s recent production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Before the performance members of the cast and crew repeated the words: Friendship, Love, Obsession, Jealousy, effectively preparing our minds for the themes to come.
The four main characters were strongly individual and contrasted; the lovelorn and changeable Proteus against the energetic and single-minded Valentine; the ultra-fashionable and beautiful Sylvia against the simple, almost dowdy (although very charming) Julia. The two girls differed only in appearance, of course; they were equally steadfast in their loyal devotion. These contrasts were cleverly supported by the differences in setting between provincial Verona, with the town brass band and the al fresco trattoria, and cosmopolitan Milan with its disco music and flashing lights.
The drama of the four lovers moved apace, and any feminist critic would have been proud of the strength and independence displayed by the women, as Julia (in male disguise) followed Proteus, and Sylvia bravely escaped her father’s house with Valentine. The confrontation in the forest was powerful and violent. With Proteus’ words ‘I’ll force thee yield to my desire’ and his evident intention, Sylvia threw him to the ground, and clearly would have strangled him had not Valentine intervened. Valentine held Proteus’ head down in a water barrel several times. It was remarkably convincing action, with the tension abating only when Julia revealed her identity.
With all this strong drama, the comic aspects of the play were delightfully interspersed. Traditionally the comedy rests primarily with Speed and Launce, the servants, and neither disappointed. Speed was the classic player-with-words, relishing the possibilities of sound and multiple meanings, quick-thinking and quick-moving. Launce was the more lugubrious, and his cross-play with the dog, Crab, was a delight. The dog must have come fresh from winning a competition as Britain’s least prepossessing pet, but it behaved beautifully and performed exactly as required.
Much of the comedy came from the interpretation of Lucetta’s role. I had not previously given much thought to this character, but here she bloomed as a vigorous and quite bawdy young woman reminiscent in voice and accent of Absolutely Fabulous’s Bubbles. The outlaws added their own gentle humour. Far from being fierce bandits, they were really pussy-cats, only too happy to find a new and confident leader.
The entire production was swift and engrossing, leaving me with that very happy sigh of satisfaction at the end which indicates a most enjoyable experience.