It's a man's world alright in the Globe Theatre's 1960s inspired take on Shakespeare's proto rom-com, set largely inside designer Katie Sykes' rainbow-bordered box resembling an after-hours open mic dive bar. Here Valentine and Proteus are a couple of small town boys in stuffy old Verona, wanting to make the scene in the far groovier Milan. With his guitar on his back, Guy Hughes' Valentine hits the road, while Dharmesh Patel's Proteus remains hopelessly devoted to Leah Brotherhood's Julia. With Valentine forced into a dance-off over Aruhan Galieva's society girl Sylvia, Proteus follows his main man to the big city, while Julia dons Bob Dylan cap and suede jacket to inveigle her androgynous way into the gang.
Nick Bagnall's production sees love letters sent as seven-inch singles before the would-be couples flirt with promiscuity and cross-dressing in a youthful rites of passage that traces an entire decade's worth of pop culture by way of James Fortune's live score. The second half is hairier, hippier and more hard rockin', with the servants remaining infinitely cooler than their masters. Adam Keast's parka-clad Speed even supplies the dog, Crab, played with laidback abandon by Freddie Thomas, with a bag of blue pills.
The most problematic part of the play, in which Proteus attempts to rape Sylvia, only for Valentine to 'give' her to his bro', could here be put down to the era's ingrained misogyny and hypocrisy regarding free love. With Sylvia and Julia left cowering and cowed as their suitors have their own all-boys-together happy ever after, the women who drove the play, it seems, are locked out of the love-in, left to freak out on their own.
The Herald, September 16th 2016