Gentlemen of Verona is playing at Wadham College Gardens in
Oxford until Saturday August 30.
takes a brave person to criticise the Bard, and I'm not that audacious.
However "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" is not any easy play to perform.
is essentially a comic tale of romance. However, underlying the
story run themes of deceit, betrayal and infidelity.
scene where Proteus' attempted rape of Sylvia is so easily forgiven
by his wronged friend, Sylvia's lover - Valentine - was particularly
challenging for me.
gives us little insight into the motivation and emotions of the
this in mind, the latest production by The Oxford Shakespeare Company
rose to the challenge in what was to my mind the best way possible;
by camping it up.
the outset, one got the feeling that there was a tongue stuck firmly
in the collective cast's cheek.
costumes were suitably outrageous (pinstripe suits and dark glasses)
and the faux Italian accents were appropriately thick.
use of scenery was equally ironic. What can only be described as
a big sheet with the words "Cafe de Milano" was used to alert the
audience to the shift in context from Verona to Milan; while clever
use of strobe lighting in the scene when Sylvia runs away to find
Valentine, hotly pursued by her father and his party, served as
an hilarious parody of chase scenes seen on the silver screen in
is a fine line between irony and just plain "hammy", and generally
the production remained on the right side throughout.
once or twice did the subtly fail, some of the gestures of Launce's
dog were, I thought, executed for a cheap laugh, and some of the
ad-libbing, particularly in the opening scene, felt a little incongurous.
was, however, counterbalanced by a couple of particularly choice
moments including a novel and jazzy ode to Sylvia performed by Thurio
and his musicians in Act IV and a vivd description by Launce of
his departure from Verona illustrated with the aid of his shoes,
hat and staff; and complete with audience participation (you have
summary, a difficult play performed in a novel, funny and extremely
accessible way by a group of universally talented actors.
this in the beautiful and informal setting of Wadham College gardens,
the perfect location in which to savour a summer serving of Shakespeare
"al gusto Italiano".
should that balmy Italian weather not quite make it across the Channel,
do remember to pack that most English of summer accessories - the