The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until 11th October 2014.
As the production started though one of its earlier exchanges I thought “Are we simply sheep before William Shakespeare’s work? Baa!” There are a number of regular theatre goers who were excited that the Royal Shakespeare Company were going to bring the rarely performed Two Gentlemen to Newcastle in what could be their final visit for the foreseeable future. They have an almost trainspotter desire to achieve completion. The fact that the company have considered terminating their visits North can only be viewed with sadness as they have done a fantastic job bringing the Bard’s work North to the fabulous theatres that exist in Newcastle.
So why is Two Gentlemen such a rare beastie with claims that it hasn’t had the RSC treatment for a few years? The production began with all of the trademarks of the well loved company. Fabulous set designs, charismatic acting, great lighting design and an audience paying careful attention to every utterance. William’s work relies on dialogue and it reveals many great laugh out loud moments in a play that isn’t that well known by most in the audience. Stealing the show was the dog who was incredibly well behaved and barked on cue.
The problems come at the end. An attempted rape, instant forgiveness and a misogynistic handling of the female characters in the final scene doesn’t lend itself to easy viewing in 2014. This is an early play by Shakespeare and whilst he is developing many of the themes that he will weave into classics such as Romeo and Juliet, he handles the climax like a bull in a china shop. Ending apart, this production is well designed, entertaining and well acted. The spotters can tick it off having had a very pleasant time with a highly professional cast.