July 1 – August 21
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Bit of a misnomer since this tale reveals that of the two friends, Valentine may be a gentleman; Proteus decidely is not. It’s something of a tangled
tale at that, and a few of the embellishments did not really seem to work. Well, this is said to be the Bard’s earliest play, and to be honest, even some of the later comedies contain scenes so unamsusng as to be quite baffling.
The second half, despite being prey to some of this, was however, easier to follow. I think…It seems Valentine is sent to Milan to serve the eponymous Duke, who favours Turio as a suitor for daughter Silvia. Rght on cue of course, she and Valentine falls in love. Then Proetus takes a shine to her, having been dispatched to Milan by his father Antonio, and after declaring his love for Julia. She, meanwhile, egged on by best friend Lucetta, decides to follow him, disguised as a boy. As you do. Oh, and there’s a band of Outlaws, banished by the Duke, as is Valentine, who becomes their leader. But as for Eglamour, the array of Grannies, and the ice-cream vendor (possibly), your guess is as good as mine.
A minimal set, yet there were a couple of near collisions, and not with just the actors weaving their way through the audience; it also had a couple of props which didn’t seem to make sense, while dialogue was at times inaudible. Modern costume gave way with the Outlaws clad in something à la mode of ‘Game of Thrones’ – but a neat idea to focus on Milan and fashion, particularly as this extended to Chester’s Got Talent in the shape of Turio, a lovely turn from Fred Lancaster, whether night club singer or rapper. Some of the musical interludes rightly received abundant applause. As did the dog, Crab, of course, and fair play to his master, Launce (Johnson Willis) who along with Danielle Henry as Speed, dexterously extracted nearly every bit of humour from their lines.
Harry Livingstone was excellent portraying the complicated Proteus with the more sympathetic Valentine (Robert Willoughby) a good foil. Better yet was the friendship between Julia and Lucetta (Charlotte Miranda-Smith), and the former (Pippa Moss) indeed shone in each and every aspect. As did Hatty Preston as Silvia, more ferocious than feisty even, but a sparkling centrepiece in her scenes.
It all ends happily, well, mostly; you do wonder at one point whether it’s Julia and Silvia who are going to head off, swooningly, into the sunset. Not that there was a sunset but rain did not stop play – forecast, showers? It was a palpable downpour.
Anyway, this is the first visit as a grown-up as it were; the children’s plays are always exceptionally delightful. But always interesting to expand your reptoire, and Storyhouse never fails to deliver a marvellous evening’s entertainment.