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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Two Gentlemen of Verona
by Lizzie Loveridge

. . . for now my love is thaw'd; which, like a waxen image 'gainst a fire bears no impression of the thing it was.
--- Proteus
Two Gentlemen of Verona is a strange choice for the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park because it is one of Shakespeare's early and least well formed comedies. The interest might have been the contrast with A Midsummer Night's Dream of lovers switching allegiances with the two actors who play Demetrius and Lysander playing Valentine and Proteus. For students of Shakespeare, it is an opportunity to see the playwrights' early experimentation with a woman donning male attire. Julia (Phillipa Peak) is a trailblazer for Portia, Viola and Rosalind.

Rachel Kavanaugh has set her Two Gentlemen in the prettiest confection of Regency clothes I have ever seen on London's stages. What the play lacks in content, it attempts to make up for in fashion. When Issy van Randwyck first makes her entrance as the rather mannered Silvia, the Milanese woman who captures the heart of both friends, she is dressed in a pink rosebud decorated farthingale, her blonde hair piled on her head, as pretty as a portrait by Thomas Gainsborough. Any red-blooded male would desire her and the rest would probably desire her frock.

There is the problem as Proteus (Nick Fletcher) falls for his friend Valentine's (Nicholas Burns) lover, betrays Julia (Phillipa Peak) to whom he only recently swore undying love and in the final scenes in the forest threatens Silvia with rape. What the audience have difficulty in accepting is not only Proteus' switch of affection but his switch back and his rapid forgiveness by Julia, Valentine and Silvia. Proteus of course is named after the shape shifter of Greek mythology. The four main lovers fail to convince but in this play the playwright has not made it easy for them.

However there are some good comic scenes featuring Ian Talbot as Launce and Josie Kavanaugh, the director's pet, as Crabbe, Launce's dog. In fact there are those who will tell you that the best thing about Two Gentlemen of Verona is the dog. Launce and Speed (John Hodkinson), another servant, have much punning but although they work hard, the word play is not as funny to modern audiences as it was four hundred years ago. The dog's scenes are splendid as his owner castigates this cute animal for being the "sourest natured dog" or having "no more pity in him than a dog".

The whole is set in the greenery of Regent's Park with many miniature houses poised on poles some of which light up through the windows for night time scenes.

Two Gentlemen of Verona
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh

With: John Hodgkinson, Phillipa Peak, John Stacey, Nick Fletcher, Nicholas Burns, Victoria Woodward, Walter van Dyck, Issy van Randwyck, Penny Belle-Fowler, Lucy Cound, Neil Ditt, David Galloway, John Conroy, Ian Talbot, Paddy Ward, Jamie Beamish, Cornelius Clarke, Gerard Carey, Josie Kavanaugh
Designer: Paul Farnsworth
Lighting Designer: Jason Taylor
Sound: Gregory Clarke
Music: Terry Davies
Movement: Scarlett Mackmin
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one interval .
Box Office: 020 7486 2431
Booking to 4th September 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th June 2003 Performance at the Open Air Theatre Regents Park, London NW1 (Tube Station: Baker Street)

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