Left – Diesel and Matt Houston. Cover – the cast
University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is utterly mesmeric. Shakespeare’s earliest play was described in Shakespeare in Love as having “Love, and a bit with a dog”. But, there is a nimble sure-footed feel to Gary George and Angela Short’s direction that effortlessly captures the confused love affairs, the underlying bromance, and the uproarious comedy with assurance.
Two Gents is too rarely performed, yet its rarity allows even the strongest fans of the Bard to see the play as though it were newly discovered. As one of Shakespeare’s most primitive works, it is not considered as one of his preeminent and consequently it is a somewhat modest, tame farce which demonstrates tropes the playwright would explore in more detail in his later works. However, the play is still utterly compelling, psychologically rich, even if the story isn’t complexly plotted.
Proteus (Alex Antoniou) and Valentine (Matthew Chapman) are best friends. Valentine leaves Verona to serve the Duke of Milan (Lindsay Dunn), while Proteus remains behind to pursue his love for Julia (Bonnie McAllister). Antonio (Jack Robbins) decides to send his son, Proteus, to the Duke's court in Milan, and so the friends are reunited. Valentine in the meantime has fallen in love with the Duke’s daughter Silvia (Kate Van Der Horst). However, Proteus, despite previously exchanging promises and rings with Julia, also falls in love at first sight when he meets the fair Silvia. He is determined to woo her away from Valentine. Proteus’ betrayal of his friend and the attempted rape of Silvia will leave them all shocked.
The comic sub-plot is superbly fleshed-out by Matt Houston as Launce, Proteus’ dogsbody, and by Nicholas Clippingdale as Speed, Valentine’s servant. Then of course there is the bit with the Dog (Diesel) which always wins hearts.
Overall, The Two Gentleman of Verona is a brilliant, funny play about love, friendship and perception. And, it superbly entertains while it tells the tale. What more does an audience want?
University of Adelaide Theatre Guild presents
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gary George and Angela Short
Venue: Little Theatre | The Cloisters, University of Adelaide
Dates: 7 – 21 May 2016
Tickets: $28 – $23