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Venue: Friargate Theatre
Last night, Friargate Theatre was the tucked away venue for an immensely entertaining evening production of The Taming of the Shrew, part of the International Shakespeare Festival which is running until this Sunday. The Two Gents Production Company pride themselves on their focus on cross-cultural, unique performances, and rightly so. The success of Arne Polheimer's directing for this production should be noticed by anyone willing to watch, with a balance of humour, skill and intellect leaving him a credit to his profession. It must be said that The Taming of the Shrew was no ordinary production, yet was an absolute pleasure.
The use of the word cast in the context of this production may be misleading. Contrary to the expectations of a night of Shakespearean theatre, the throngs of actors and the often-difficult task of remembering who's who, where and when was no more. For those of us not akin to life in iambic pentameter, the actors of the Two Gents Theatre Company afforded us, as their twenty-first century audience, the luxury of fluidity and understanding, filling the theatre with their vision, leaving us with a sense of a Friday night well spent.
The original text was devised as a play of more than 20 characters, however the production company rejected this full performance for the use of just two actors. This may seem like an impossible task. I cannot pretend that I did not raise an eyebrow or two with suspicion over such a proposition. The finesse and style of the actors who commanded the stage, alongside the precision of the directing and the range of movement of the actors, leaves me no option but to admit that I was very wrong in assuming that it could not be done.
The acting talent of Zimbabwean born Kudzi Hudson and Swaziland born Sibusiso Mamba was undeniable. Their performances were a total success on a number of levels. Their ability to entertain an audience was clear from the first moment, with laughter and participation acting as their welcome to Renaissance Italy. Their movement from male to female, Southern African accents to RP was effortless, with their on stage chemistry being a delight to watch whilst the plain black stage gave the actors the spotlight they truly deserved.
The actors moved with poise and had the delicacy required for the production. They transitioned from character to character with subtlety yet clarity. It was these transitions which made the production so successful. No stage exits or costume changes were necessary, only simple movements, formulated by the Two Gents Director of Movement, Yukiko Masuki. Masuki's ability complimented the actors perfectly, with her direction rendering any aesthetic changes entirely unwarranted.
This was the most successful Shakespeare production I have ever seen, and being from Stratford-upon-Avon, in Shakespeare's County, I was shocked by my conversion to the company's intelligent and modern style. Congratulations to the Two Gents Production Company, whose style and talent filled the theatre from the first moment to the last. I wish the production company every success on their endeavours to complete Shakespeare's works in the order with which they were written, whilst I would encourage anybody to take some time out of their day to enjoy Shakespeare in the most modern and fashionable manner possible.