How is it so that after 400 years of careful study, analysis, performance and countless high school English essays the world is still so enamoured with the works of William Shakespeare? What is the enduring element of the work? If you could bottle it, it would be worth more than diamonds, at least in the case of the performing arts. I believe that somehow the 16th Century Bard tapped into the most basic of human desires. Love, connection and comfort all feature throughout his plots and what’s more make his antiquated plays adaptable throughout the centuries that followed their creation.
That’s Classic! Entertainment has taken one of the earlier plays from Shakespeare’s writing career, Two Gentlemen of Verona and given it a makeover. Swapping 16th Century Verona for 1930s Hollywood, and a lengthy title for the short and snappy “Two Gents”, the text takes on new meaning in the slick, glamorous world of studio system stars and overbearing producers.
Perhaps what is most enjoyable is the obvious connection between the ensemble cast, with rarely a performer off stage throughout the 100-minute performance. Whilst it must be a marathon for the performers with numerous costume changes, character changes, instrument swapping and more, the audience only ever sees the joyful product of slapstick comedy at its finest.
Taking on strong elements of Commedia dell’Arte, the physical comedy of Two Gents is brilliant. Whist this is a tricky concept to get right, the cast have mastered the art in what is both a practical and hilarious manner. The scene between Scott Jackson and James Shaw as Launce and Speed is perfectly executed comedy. Speaking of perfectly executed (and immaculate comedic timing) Seon Williams nails it time after time in all her roles, with a special mention to her portrayal of Crab the Dog.
Joined by Jacqui Martin as shining starlet Silvia and the epitome of a romantic hero, Valentine played with careful foppishness by Scott Middleton, the entire cast shine in this minimalist production played at the Fairfield Amphitheatre. Even without sound amplification this talented troupe ensure you don’t miss a word of the text, most of which has remained unchanged to ensure the original rhythms are kept.
There is something truly magical about watching a piece of art seem to work effortlessly. Characters so quickly but with such conviction there is never any doubt as to where you are in the narrative.
Perhaps the only change to this story was the song given to Martin at the end of the play. Whilst in the original, after Silvia is rescued, she has no more lines, once again in the possession of a man, voiceless. In the adaptation That’s Classic! Entertainment gives Silvia the chance to speak her piece and the end the story in her own voice. It is a touching moment (and a gorgeous one given Martin’s stunning vocals) in a world where women are often left voiceless.
That’s Classic! Entertainment’s production of Two Gents brings the ongoing theme of female disempowerment to the forefront of the production. Be it 16th Century Verona, 20th Century Hollywood or 21st Century Parliament, the production offers the the voiceless Silvia a voice in the hope of inspiring more people to speak up and speak out.
Funny, sweet and with all the characteristic of later Shakespeare’s plays just starting to be introduced, Two Gents is a glorious night out. Bring a cushion, a blanket and a snack and enjoy the bountiful comedy of Two Gents.
That's Classic! Entertainment presents
by William Shakespeare
Director Mandy Ellison
Venue: Fairfield Amphitheatre
Dates: 1 – 13 March 2021
Venue: Bendigo Botanic Gardens (Garden for the Future) | Bendigo VIC
Dates: 15 – 20 March 2021
Tickets: from $28