Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Catch ‘Two Gents’ While You Can

Published on: 18 Jul, 2017
Updated on: 18 Jul, 2017

By Alice Fowler

Deep in the grounds of the University of Law near Guildford, recast as Italy in the 1950s, two best friends debate the qualities of love.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is being performed by the Guildford Shakespeare Company. Picture from GSC’s website.

One, Valentine, leaves sleepy Verona for the bright lights of Milan, where he meets and falls for the Duke’s daughter Silvia. His friend, Proteus, soon follows and falls head over heels for the same woman – despite having his own sweetheart, Julia, back home.

So begins The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, and part two of the Guildford Shakespeare Company’s summer season.

All manner of entanglements follow: betrayal, lust, children disobeying their parents in love, comic servants commenting on the action, a woman disguised as a man pursuing her errant lover. If much of this seems familiar, you are right: Two Gents (as the GSC respectfully refers to it) was probably Shakespeare’s first comedy, foreshadowing later plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night.

Certainly there is much to laugh at here, including GSC co-founder Matt Pinches’ stand-out performance as Proteus’s servant Launce. Paul Trussell also excels as Sir Thurio, the cringe-inducing suitor to Silvia, favoured by her father the Duke.

And then there is the dog. Three dogs share the role of Launce’s dog, Crab. On the night I watched, it was the turn of Buddy, a three-year-old golden retriever.

Like all animals, he managed to steal every scene in which he featured. Would he sit – or wouldn’t he? Would the lead get tangled in his legs – again? All this added to the comedy of the night and was masterfully handled by his on-stage owner Pinches.

The same cast of actors recently appeared in the GSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and deserves full credit for this second successful production. Owen Findlay and Jack Whitam dazzle as the two gentlemen, Valentine and Proteus. Ailsa Joy convinces as Silvia, while Meghan Tyler, who plays Julia, displays the same gift for comedy she showed in ‘Dream’. With Tyler, GSC co-founder Sarah Gobran delights as a gossipy waitress in gingham dress and pinny.

On a warm summer evening, as the light fades, there can be few venues so magical as the University of Law’s atmospheric gardens. The play opens on a railway platform in Verona and – with much brandishing of suitcases and judicious use of smoke – the GSC even manages to create a fair impression of a steam train, heading out of town. To theatre-goers, I give the same advice: catch ‘Two Gents’ while you can.

It continues until July 29. Box Office: 01483 304384,

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