When I said that if you liked Propeller, you’d like Bristol based Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona I meant that if you liked Shakespeare well done, you’d like them.
The styles of the two companies could not be more different. I don’t want to hark on about the similarities but as Propeller was here only three weeks ago, comparisons are inevitable. While Propeller is aggressive, in your face, taking no prisoners Shakespeare, the Bristol company is, judging by Two Gentlemen, much more laid back, almost lyrical. So it could also be said that if you, perish the thought, hated Propeller, you’d love Two Gentlemen of Verona – provided of course that you like Shakespeare.
Two Gentlemen of Verona is not one of the bard’s best known or most oft performed plays but it deals with very familiar themes and includes the inevitable cross dressing. To put it simply – a pair of friends, Proteus and Valentino, are separated when the latter leaves Verona for Milan where he promptly falls for the Duke’s daughter, Silvia, who is betrothed to a nerdy Lord Turio. Proteus decides to follow his friend, leaving behind Julia, his sweetheart. Proteus also becomes smitten Silvia. The rest of the play is about resolving the tricky ménage à quatre and involves Julia following her lover to Milan, disguised as a man, to find out what he’s up to.
All the cast were excellent especially the two gentlemen themselves played by Jack Bannell and Piers Wehner who, dare I say it, had something of the young Kenneth Branagh about him. However, for several scenes, rather predictably, everyone was upstaged by Lollio the dog. Great though he was he seemed to have been slightly miscast as Crab, who is described as a rather mangy and badly behaved mongrel. Lollio was the very epitome of good behavior and loveableness. He always hit his mark, never missed a cue and even yawned and licked his bum at appropriate moments. In fact he was so good that at one point I thought it might be another two gentlemen in a skin.
Go and see Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona. It is beautifully done and finely acted – but don’t let the dog distract you. Michael Hasted