The Two Gentlemen of Verona comes to The New Theatre Royal

Dharmesh Patel as Proteus with Amber James as Thurio in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Picture by Gary Calton
Dharmesh Patel as Proteus with Amber James as Thurio in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Picture by Gary Calton
Laurie Davidson and Lydia Leonard in The Meeting. Photo by Helen Maybanks

REVIEW The Meeting at The Minerva Theatre, Chichester

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One of Shakespeare’s less-performed plays is getting an outing when The Globe Theatre brings its touring production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona to Portsmouth.

One of his earlier works, the comedy is directed by Nick Bagnall who is looking to create a brand new, anarchic version of the play with a focus on music and ensemble performance.

Working on this has made me fall in love with Shakespeare even more

Amber James

This riotous new production is led by a joyful ensemble of players who will delight with songs, romance and chaos, and hurl Shakespeare’s anarchic comedy into the 21st century.

Cast member Amber James only graduated from university last summer, but has been thrown in at the deep end – she’s playing three roles, Lucetta, Panthino and Thurio. And it was only on the first day of rehearsals she found out her triple-billing – and not only that, as two of the characters are male.

‘It’s been completely different to what I was expecting,’ says Amber.

‘It’s been so much fun to do in rehearsals because you’re given the chance to do what you want with it and explore that character. If you’re going to play a bloke, you can’t do it half-hearted, you’ve got to really go for it or otherwise it’s going to be awful.’

It’s also a nice inversion of how the plays would originally have been performed when men took all the roles.

‘We’re doing a lot of that. Charlotte Mills is playing Launce, which is originally a male part and she does a fantastic job.

‘I don’t know why, but it adds to the comedy as well. Nick’s been really bold with the casting.’

The setting has also been moved to 1966.

‘It’s a great period, because everything was exploding music-wise, and the style and the whole atmosphere.

‘Then we have the two worlds in the play.

‘Verona where it begins, is very beige and calm.

‘Then we move to Milan where it’s all very different and it’s Muddy Waters and sex and fun, there’s lots of dancing, lots of northern soul and ska. It’s been an education for me too.’

As a life-long fan of Shakespeare, working with The Globe has been a dream for Amber.

‘Working with this company, where they have such great ideas and great directors, it feels like such a treat. And the other actors, you’re constantly inspired. It’s made me fall in love with Shakespeare even more.’

New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

July 13-16