First there is Proteus (Mark Arends) who is a hopeless romantic and in love with Julia (Pearl Chanda) who is fickle about receiving his attentions in spite of herself. Then there is Valentine (Michael Marcus), Proteus' best friend, who is determined never to be a slave to love but of course falls head over heels for Sylvia (Sarah MacRae), the Duke of Milan's daughter, to whoms court he has been sent.
Of course the path of true love never did run smooth. Sylvia is betrothed to someone else of her father's choosing and, just as Proteus and Julia are getting it together, he is sent to join Valentine where he too falls in love with Sylvia.
The lovers make a beautiful foursome and, under Simon Godwin's direction, you are easily carried along by their stories. There is a refreshing constancy to Valentine and Sylvia which contrasts nicely with the fickleness of Proteus and has you rooting for them.
Designer Paul Wills has given the play a contemporary setting with a nod to the Italian location in the ornate balcony and sweeping stairs. As the audience arrive the stage is set up as a bustling cafe. If you are sat on the front row you may be invited up on stage to have a chat with some of the 'customers'. It is one of the rare occasions I was sat on the second row :0( but a good reason to get to your seat early.
The comedy comes primarily from the secondary characters Speed (Martin Bassindale) and Launce (Roger Morlidge) Valentine and Proteus' man servants who are naturally caught up in the entangled love life of the four youths. But, the real star of these scenes is Mossup who plays Crab. He doesn't say much but has a disarming look and comic timing that had the audience rapt.
It's the first time I've seen Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of Shakespeare's early plays - some say his first - and not one that is performed that often. Many of the conceits and motifs are ones you'll recognise from later, more popular Shakespeare plays so it has a familiarity to it.
Any weakness in being an early, inexperienced work by the Bard certainly didn't show in this production, in fact it was a thoroughly enjoyable fun frolic.
This was a preview performance and it runs in rep at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until 4 September before heading to Newcastle Upon Tyne. You can watch the trailer on the RSC's YouTube channel.
At least three members of the cast have worked with David Tennant - Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Youssef Kerkour (both RII) and Sarah MacRae (Much Ado) so I'm using that as the connection. Mr T said Mr W was "annoyingly nice" in an interview which I take as a sign that the two of them have met.