The Two Gentlemen of Verona
LEO PARKER-REES isn’t sure if even a children’s charity is worth this level of pain.
Homerton Auditorium, 26th November, 7pm, £3
Directed by Esther Kezia Harding
For one night only, The Two Gentlemen of Verona was performed simultaneously in Cambridge and Exeter. Projection screens on either side of the stage let the audience in Homerton’s theatre see the same play performed in Devon. Well, that’s novel. The result wasn’t effective, and the show was unbearably bad, but it was an interesting idea. You’ve got to give them that.
It’s quite hard to review such a bad show. Where do you begin? Cambridge went for a 21st century setting (as opposed to Exeter’s choice of early Edwardian), but this was done so lazily that they just seemed to wear whatever was closest to hand. There was no consistency at all.
Doing a show without costume could have been interesting, but this just seemed half-hearted. Top hat and cane for the duke, hoodies for the outlaws, and anything else for everyone else. Sorted. Antonio needs glasses? Well, he’s got those bright orange plastic ones, hasn’t he? Go on, fuck it, it’ll be hilarious. Why not give everyone inexplicable bicycles at some point? Sure, the duke would ride one. Why not. Who cares.
Timing was a big problem throughout, with the Cambridge cast consistently dragging behind Exeter’s. While our first scene was underway, they were on their third. When Exeter had an interval, we had to wait 10 minutes or so before we could have ours. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see their audience strolling around, eating icecream, blissfully unaware of my pain. It’s fine, I thought, they’ll speed things up in the second half. You would have thought so too, wouldn’t you?
Well then, we’d both be wrong, because while the Exeter audience were applauding at the end, we had another ten minutes to sit through. Or was it fifteen? Maybe. Time had no meaning anymore. Their audience emptied, save for a few stray lingerers, while I miserably waited, watching the painful conclusion draw to an agonising close.
What the cast were lacking in consistency of costume, they made up for with consistently bad acting. I couldn’t hear a lot of the dialogue, and it wasn’t any better when I could. An abundance of over-acting, with plenty of not-even-acting thrown in (perhaps as a confused attempt to balance things out), meant Shakespeare’s script – by no means his best script – was butchered from start to finish.
I couldn’t hear the Exeter cast, but they must have been better. Even if they weren’t, at least they had the decency to get it over with faster. Marcelo Cervone Rasberge (playing Valentine, one of the two titulars) was the most bearable, but it still wasn’t a good performance. He was also the only ARU student in the cast, so we were simultaneously outdone by two universities.
None of the cast seemed to understand their lines, beyond an Oh-I-Think-I’m-Angry-in-This-Speech level. When Proteus (Samuel Oscar March) got slapped, what sounded like an elderly gentleman in the audience shouted “Well done!” and got the biggest laugh of the night.
It seemed like his approval was of March being slapped, rather than Proteus. It must have been, since March never seemed like Proteus. Like a poor Michael Jackson impersonator at times, yes, but never Proteus. His performance was utterly self-serving, somehow worse than the cast-members who weren’t acting at all.
This play gets its one star because it was for charity – East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, to be precise. That was the show’s one redeeming feature. The gimmick of simultaneousness was totally ineffective, a reasonable idea that wasn’t carried out well. Most of the cast were freshers, but this doesn’t excuse their performances. A lot of them are studying drama. I want my bus-fare back.