A reinterpreted adaptation directed by Evan L. Barker has many qualities that both hit and miss.

This modern take brings back memories of high school; the story takes place in a secondary school of an English Academy, albeit with Italian names and setting. They even play catch with an American football to give the impression of how high school-esque this show will be.  The black board, white chairs, and even a painter of highlights (all of which are covered in graffiti from highlighters). 

After a brief out-of-tune choir prologue, we are thrusted into the scene as hyped-up teenagers rush into the story. Our focus goes to the two main protagonists: Proteus played by Paul Surel and Valentine played by Hugo Papiernik. Both are in trials and tribulations as young men at school who are perplexed by new life adventures, but they truly focus on the pursuits of love itself. Papiernik’s portrayal of Valentine immediately draws from his boyish charm and well-spoken words and feelings. These attributes are quickly followed by a parallel scene with Julia (played by Tor Leijten) and her friend/maiden (played by Izzi McCormack-John in the most East London way of mannerisms and fashion possible). This mad exchange of dialogue, played by all of the cast in every scene, fits the intention of the production – but is it easy to understand?

This humorous, convoluted love story version of the play really tries to reach out to connect with the audience. It has its moments where we are intrigued, following everyone who is going through the dilemma of torn love or just issues of some standard. But how meaningful is a high school romance, really? Do we truly want to relive our high school experiences, or are we dreading it as we go through the performance?

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is original in that it contains unscripted moments of humour off stage and even forth-wall breaks not written in by the Bard himself. These moments really work because of the Duke, played by the enamouring and brilliant GemSkii. Also worth a mention is the strong character Tor Leijten brings as not only a girly-girl, Julia, but also as a male student who has to hide their hurt and betrayal.

This five-act play has been condensed to just over 110 minutes; Shakespeare’s first play – a genre of teenage drama – has a surplus of potential. More finessing of certain characters which ham it up slightly too much for their whole journey throughout the play, and perhaps more practising to build more energy during the speeches is required for the stage to truly be commanded. This outspoken drama with a twist could share insight and bring change to all who play the roles or learn from them; until it does, do take trigger warnings of assault and abuse seriously.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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