Presented by University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
Reviewed 7 May 2016
Usually considered the first of Shakespeare’s plays, The Gentlemen is often thought to be less well crafted. I must admit this did not show up in this production. The background has been moved to a more modern scenario and although communication is still through written notes for the most part, the occasional appearance of a mobile phone did not necessarily seem out of place. The original themes of love, loyalty and betrayal are still evident and relevant. Two young men in love and sworn in faithfulness to their ladies and each other are hoodwinked by love, a favourite theme.
With the aid of Michael Vo’s set, directors Gary George and Angela Short have done a good job despite having to overcome a few hurdles. One of the main players was almost incapacitated by an incident with a van. He made it to the stage, but the directors plead with everyone not to say ‘break a leg’.
Despite some general first night nerves the performances are strong and all the lead players do well. Matthew Chapman as Valentine has a tendency to rush his lines (at least in the first act) and that caused his speeches in particular to seem garbled; he was much improved in the second act which makes me think it was nerves. As the other gentleman, Alex Antiniou managed his flowery speeches well and managed not to come across as unfeeling when he betrayed people left, right and centre. The objects of their affection Julia (Bonnie McAllister) and Silvia (Kate Van Der Horst) are not shrinking violets and are played with strength.
As usual the servants get all the good lines and Nicholas Clippingdale has fun as Valentine’s man, Speed, but not as much as Matt Houston who caused much hilarity with his dog Crab (aka Diesel) in tow. Diesel was a definite scene-stealer aided and abetted by Houston. The fathers of these young folk were played with suitable gravity by Lindsay Dunn (the Duke, Silvia’s father) and Jack Robins (Antonio, Proteus’ father). Robins also played Eglamour who helps Silvia flee. Other notable parts were taken by Sheridan Cox (Lucetta), Amelia Lee-Hammat (Patina) and Timothy Tedmanson (Turio –Silvia’s other suitor).
Richard Parkhill’s lighting helped make good use of the interesting space that is the Little Theatre. Although many of the cast seem unfamiliar with the Bard’s language, the main players made this a production worth seeing.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards