The Two Gentlemen of Verona is not well-known in the Shakespearean canon although its inclusion in the Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love may well have brought it increased recognition. An early romantic comedy, it's a play where principal pleasure lies in the anticipation of greatness. Many of the Bard's characteristic devices, such as the resourceful heroine who dons male garb and the wily fool who speaks sense here receive their initiation, elements that are more successfully integrated in later plays. It still boasts its fair share of inimitable lines though; everyday phrases like 'love is blind and 'to make a virtue from necessity' making an welcome appearance here.
Staged in sumptuous Regency costume, perhaps suggesting an Italian air of decadence, one of the production's chief recommendations lies in its visual appeal. It's a play about friendship and love, lust and constancy that sees the familiar threads of romantic confusion summarily resolved in one of the speediest final scenes Shakespeare ever penned.The eponymous gentlemen of the title are Valentine and Proteus, lifelong friends newly enthralled by love. Valentine devoted to the unattainable Silvia, Proteus to the faithful Julia. But when Proteus is suddenly smitten by his friend's lady, infatuation smothers his finer qualities and the possibility of emotional maelstrom is but narrowly averted.
Somewhat pedestrian in performance, the production needs an injection of energy to boost its comedic potential. Without the benefit of superb acting the play seems rather lifeless and though one has the pleasure of Launce's diverting scenes with his dog (director Rachel Kavanaugh's Josie), more fire and substance is needed in the leading roles to anchor the play, an exception being Issy van Randwyck who acquits herself well as the devoted Silvia.
What other critics had to say.....
BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "No applause here for plausibility." LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "A production that seems to err deliberately on the side of bland." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "The charmless, shouty Phillipa Peak and Victoria Woodward....For the rest, though, the production is superior in every way."
External links to full reviews from newspapers...