If the ending of The Taming of the Shrew is problematic, and hence an interesting challenge for directors, the ending of Shakespeare's early comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona is doubly so: the attempted rape of Silvia by Proteus who is stopped in his tracks by his betrayed friend Valentine; a brief apology by Proteus, immediate forgiveness by Valentine (who tells him 'All that was mine in Silvia I give thee'), whereupon Proteus is actually reunited with his original love Julia, despite her having witnessed it all. This final scene may be one reason why Two Gentlemen is rarely performed.
The Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory production, under the directorship of Andrew Hilton, and set in the early 20th century, is charming and funny. The leads Julia and Silvia (Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Lisa Kay), close long-term friends Proteus and Valentine (Piers Wehner and Jack Bannell) and their servants Launce and Speed (Chris Donnelly and Marc Geoffrey) and their fast repartee ensure that the production moves along apace, even when some of the verbal humour escapes a 21st century audience. Crab, Launce's dog, played by elderly labrador Lollio, at times steals the show, but this all adds to the fun. There is live music too (guitar, oboe, mandolin and viola), with songs from Eva Tausig and Piers Wehner - for this is where the song 'Who is Silvia' comes from. The Round is used well, including the balcony, and a sad irony is achieved when Julia is excitedly planning her journey to Milan with her waiting woman Lucetta (the incomparable Nicky Goldie), while on another part of the stage Proteus is sitting very still, silently planning his betrayal of Valentine and move on Silvia.
This production should be seen - not only because it is a rare opportunity, but because the acting is excellent and the production hits just the right, light note. And what would you do with the ending?
• Black Labrador Lollio, who features in the play, has won so many fans in his role as Crab in Two Gentleman of Verona that he even has his own blog at http://lolliosblog.wordpress.com
Still to run in Lancaster ....
Wednesday 8 May - Saturday 11 May, 7.30 p.m. plus matinees on Wednesday and Saturday (2 p.m.)
Lancaster LA1 1QE
Box office 01524 598500
Evenings: Wed.-Thur. £12.50-£14.50; Fri. - Sat. £16.50-£18.50
Concessions: £2.00 off
Balcony standing: £5.00
May 14-18: Cheltenham (Everyman Theatre)
May 28-June 1: Scarborough (Stephen Joseph Theatre)
June 4-8: Exeter (Northcott Theatre)
June 11-15: Winchester (Theatre Royal)