The Two Gentlemen of Verona

William Shakespeare
C Company
Bridewell Theatre
(2009)

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Despite recent revelations about bankers' bonuses, most theatre types have little idea about the arcane practices that are carried out daily in the City of London. The ignorance is reciprocated, so the activities of C Company are of particular interest.

Aileen Gonsalves has made it her mission to bring Shakespeare to the City at lunchtimes. In the Bridewell Theatre, only a couple of hundred yards down the hill from St Paul's Cathedral and little further from one of the world's great financial hubs, it is currently possible to enjoy a heavily cut down, modernised version of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The first piece of good news is that it was pleasing to see a decent audience, who were very receptive to this unorthodox approach to the Swan of Avon.

Miss Gonsalves and the company's producer Susan Bracken have created a new version of this lesser-known comedy which begs a question never previously considered despite the wealth of literature about the Bard. Did Shakespeare disappear off every summer to holiday in Spain with Club 18-30?

The question becomes pertinent as the young inhabitants of Verona seem far more like the typical badly behaved Brits on tour than cultured Italians, with questionable morals and a variety of accents including London, Welsh and American in the company.

The plot is characteristic, with two Jack the lads, Ian Mairs as Valentine and a real Jack, Lewis, playing Proteus heading off to enjoy the sun. Valentine is in pursuit of well-to-do Silvia (Kristin McIlquham), while his pal has left Susan Kingman's Julia behind at home.

On sighting his friend's girl, Jack is instantly smitten by Cupid's arrow thereby starting off a great deal of fun, enhanced when Julia turns up disguised as a Portuguese man!

Both the acting and vision for this production owed much to TV sitcom, although the language was unadulterated. The result is possibly more Two Chavs of Benidorm than Two Gentlemen of Verona but even so, a receptive audience thoroughly enjoyed the break from their working day.

C Company has certainly worked out their product with care, achieving the seemingly impossible. Provided that you do not mind gobbling down lunch somewhere along the way, or even in the theatre, it is perfectly possible to attend a performance within a lunch hour, assuming that you work within about five minutes of the theatre.

This season, which started with "Macbeth" and continues with this play until 10th July, concludes with "Much Ado About Nothing", running from 21st July.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher