Working outdoors provides elements you don't have to deal with in conventional theatre space, but audiences have made it clear for years that they don't mind. Sydney’s ‘Opera in the Park’ and ‘Shakespeare in the Gardens’ has always had to contend with bats, traffic noise, planes overhead and even occasional ships hooting on the harbour. And Shakespearean performances in Elizabethan times were clearly in noisy and disruptive environments.

Nonetheless, in The Acting Factory’s first ‘Shakespeare by the River’ production, Two Gentlemen of Verona, the lighting and the riverbank setting really were magical.
Charles Hegyi's director’s notes highlighted the script's characteristics – it is reputedly the first of Shakespeare’s plays to be performed and is sometimes criticised for being less subtle and polished than his later work. These elements were fascinating to recognise as the story unfolded. All the devices Shakespeare developed to such consummate levels in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night and other comedies - mistaken identity, love betrayed, cross dressing and general nonsense – in Two Gents are quite crude, so that characters positively jerked from one emotional position to another.

You would wonder why on earth any pretty lass like Julia or young man like Valentine could possibly want to resume a friendship with such a turncoat as Proteus! Certainly, Andrew Broderick played Proteus with such endearing openness and wide eyed innocence, he did seem possible to forgive. And David B. Fowler as Valentine seemed so chivalrous and such a generally nice guy that his gullibility is quite believable.

Lauren McKinnon’s clarity of speech and her classic "over the top" adolescent emotion was a delight. David Attrill, especially in his role as the servant Launce with his dog, was a hoot.

As for Speed, Neil Henderson seemed to get right inside his unique character and his timing was glorious. We set out for home still chuckling about his deeply serious Eglamor in a trenchcoat. Wayne Pratt with his very 21st century Panthino was right up there with the best! Linda Stainton’s Silvia was quite the glamorous and imperious lady, and Michelle Adams very able in her series of roles.
A really great evening and a magical riverside setting. Three days later, I’m still laughing and enjoying all the recurring images.


Katherine Knight
Arts West

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