The Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC Live), Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford. September 2014.
According to all of the publicity this is play that the RSC haven't performed on their main stage for around 40 years and this alone made me want to see the production, however Norwich to Stratford is not the easiest journey whether by car or train and so the fact that they too broadcast selected plays into cinemas is a blessing.
I didn't know anything about this play at all prior to sitting in my seat and the broadcast started with a few interviews with the main cast members and the director. This helped set the scene and also made it easy to spot who was who when the main action started.
It wasn't that easy to see when the main action started as there was an incredibly long, wordless prologue (which included some audience participation - shudder!) and as this also featured the two male protagonists I don't think I was alone in thinking that the sound wasn't right coming through from Stratford.
Once this bit was over the story fairly raced through and even with no prior knowledge of the play it was one of the easiest plots to follow that I've seen from Shakespeare. That coupled with the modern dress made it very easy to forget that this was a 400 year old play as it felt very up-to-date. It was nice that the modern dress, set and music didn't seem at odd with the areas that were kept more 'Shakespearean' elements, or of course the original words.
A dog is major character in the play and the live dog in the play was very good, but as I've seen mentioned elsewhere it must be a little disheartening for the main actors to be working their socks off for three hours yet the dog get a round of applause for just appearing!
The play itself felt very safe, and the 'baddie' never seemed quite evil enough. His neglected lover, Julia, also seemed to forgive him a little too easily. I can see why the play hasn't been performed in full on the main stage for such a long time because of these points - although how much of this was the directors view rather than the original material I will find out when I read the play.
I enjoyed the performance very much but due to the slightness I am pleased that I did wait for the RSC Live broadcast and didn't make the trek to Stratford. However the trailer for the two winter plays Love's Labour's Lost/Love's Labour's Found and the little bit of back story to the setting of these does have me looking at the theatre brochure and the train times!