A Review of The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Everyman & Playhouse
When culture was flourishing and music was sweet, director Nick Bagnall transforms us into to the nifty and hip scenes of 1966 here at the Everyman theatre in Liverpool.
From the soulless Verona to the cool and sophisticated Milan, the audience can hardly blame Valentine (Guy Hughes) for wanting to pack up his bags and seek his fortune in Italy’s sweet city of fashion and design. Plunged into a world of alternative lifestyles and loud music, Valentine soon settles and even falls in love with the Duke’s daughter, Sylvia. Little does he know that Proteus also falls in love with Sylvia shortly after following Valentine’s footsteps, leaving the poor Julia no choice but to follow and witness this chaotic love triangle. A classic feature of a Shakespearean comedy.
Along this musically led narrative, Bagnall’s plot unfolds as we witness betrayed friendships, domineering parents and scenes of violence and deception. Yet there’s no doubt that this production offers several genuine laugh out loud moments in between its bursts of melody. Particularly, the character of Launce, played by Charlotte Mills, her role continuously pleased the audience with her daring vigour and crude jokes. Even Fred Thomas’s double as Launce’s dog was a pleasant surprise. The production successfully captured the youthful and gauche relationship between Valentine and Proteus with the actor’s creditable performances making this play certainly worthy of a watch.
In addition to this, we definitely can’t avoid talking about the music, arguably the most entertaining part of this production. With a musically talented cast and a vast range of instruments – including the drums, sax, guitar and keyboard – we were left far from disappointed with the incredible vocals. The year of 1966 saw musical influences happening all over the world. Bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Beach Boys unsurprisingly led the youths into a state of ambition, dreams and hope; something that Bagnall thought was very relevant to this play. Bagnall even goes to the extent of presenting love letters on 45rpm vinyl discs to exemplify the love of music during this period.
The stand out vocal performance would have to go to Amber Jame’s for Thurio’s solo as her role of a man was extremely persuading. Unfortunately, the less memorable of the 8 actors would have to be Aruhan Galieva’s character of Sylvia which at times felt quite emotionless.
Yet the production’s ending is equally as bizarre as Shakespeare’s. Clearly, Bagnall adheres to the play’s ending in which Valentine obnoxiously chooses his friendship with Proteus instead of pursuing a relationship with Sylvia. Before concluding with a song about loneliness from Julia and Sylvia. Bagnall doesn’t handle this unresolved ending very well and perhaps an alternative ending to Shakespeare’s would have been more fitting.
Despite these minor issues, Bagnall’s production is still a delightful watch and would be a high recommendation to Shakespeare lovers who may also favour a modern twist.