THEATRE / The Two Gentlemen of Verona - Barbican Theatre

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The Independent Culture
Beneath the topsy-turvy entanglements of Shakespeare's strongest comedies tugs a strict pattern of symmetry - an awareness of how things should be. This sense of order is so absent in The Two Gentlemen of Verona that 10 minutes before the end you start wondering how on earth the rows and character defects can be sorted out. But while Shakespeare may fudge the issue, Barry Lynch resolves it with a smile - a smug, arrogant smile which then cracks with the full force of self-awareness. Proteus, he makes you feel, had simply forgotten himself.

In David Thacker's production, though, you would have forgiven him anything. This is a riot of a show - PG Wodehouse meets Dennis Potter, with Thirties songs and all-leather luggage, outstretched arms met by courtly kisses, comic freneticism interspersed with languishing airs. It moves swiftly and it's tightly performed: Richard Bonneville is big and bluff as Valentine; Josette Bushell-Mingo endows Silvia's moral superiority with touching fragility; and Claire Holman is tough and heart-rending by turns as the abandoned Julia. At only one point, as her shoulders gently shook with suppressed unhappiness, did you wish that she was in love with another man.

Booking: 071-638 3351.