The Two Gentleman of Verona
July 23, 1970 | The Royal Shakespeare Company
Robin Phillips presented a modern-dress production of William Shakespeare classic play. Reviewing the RSC’s version for The Times, Irving Wardle suggested that “the play deals with a specifically Elizabethan contest between love and friendship” and, as a result, “it appears more confused and implausible to us than it would have done to Shakespeare’s public.” Certainly it has to be taken in the context of a Renaissance debate which often privileged male friendship above the demands of heterosexuality. This is why putting the play into modern dress poses particular problems: in our culture, men who address one another as “my loving Proteus” and “sweet Valentine” are assumed to be more than good friends. The Guardian regretted the “many visual and thematic inconsistencies” introduced by updating the action but recognised that they were done in a “spirit of affection” for an immature play. Resisting the temptation to broaden the comedy too far, Phillips had acknowledged the play’s “serious purpose” in a production that was a “victory of professionalism over playfulness”. However, Mirren proved a stumbling block for this critic: “…at the moment [she] shoves and pushes too much. She seems to overact at every point and must learn to allow the audience to come to her occasionally rather than rush at them”.