The Two Gentlemen of Verona by the Playbox Theatre company, Dream Factory, Warwick, March 1.
THE Two Gentlemen of Verona is reckoned to be Shakespeare’s first foray into comedy and it remains one of the few which is genuinely funny to a modern audience. When you watch the two clownish servants, Speed and Launce, you can see exactly where the inspiration for Baldrick came from.
Maybe it should always be performed by a youth theatre because the production by Playbox is a real gem. It has a truly playful quality and focuses on the wilfulness and self-obsession of youth.
All the themes of the later plays are here - a girl dresses as a boy to pursue her inconstant lover while outlaws take over the forest and all the complications of the plot are unravelled at one fell swoop.
Playbox set their production in the 1920s and used strobe lighting to create a silent film effect and speed up the action of the final scenes to emphasise the unreal, farcical nature of the plot.
Jeremy Franklin is a very mature and assured Proteus who contrasts nicely with Ben Webber’s more naïve and idealistic Valentine. Lauren Rose Moakes as Julia was understated in the first scene, but really grew in stature in the second act. Helena Eccles as Silvia and Alice Woodhouse as her mother the Duchess were convincingly sharp-witted and ran rings around the male characters. Unusually the two clowns were played by females and they milked their parts for all they were worth.
This fun production is definitely a good night out.