We are in a weird times. You will hear people say it again and again. But during this time, we get to experience new things, in new ways. And I feel honoured and lucky to have experienced TheShowMustGoOnline performing their first show.
Every week, Rob Myles and a group of talented actors will perform a read through of Shakespeare’s plays in the order in which they were written. Tonight is The Two Gentleman of Verona.
After being introduced to the cast, we had the most beautiful introduction to the play by Ben Crystal, actor, producer and writer and the author of Shakespeare on Toast. His voice is easy to listen to and his message, while tinged with sorrow that we face the times we do, is hopeful and brings some positivity.
I will paraphrase, but here is what Ben said.
For everyone out there who has lost a project, who has lost a job, it may not be a great deal of comfort to know, The Globe went down due to the plague…and look what can be done [in relation to what Shakespeare managed to create]. Hopefully this coming together throughout art, is positive for me, and I hope for everyone else.
Two Gentleman of Verona, a contentious play, one of Shakespeare’s earliest. Possible one of the earliest, a comedy, a lot of sharp writing with a relatively straight forward pot, with a twist. It starts with Proteus and Valentine, two best friends. Valentine is heading off on his travels leaving Proteus behind.
Their connection is deep and true. Proteus feels lost without his friend. But he is told by his father to follow his friend to make something of himself, he does so, taking his friend Lance. He leaves his love Julia, swapping rings and swearing fidelity to one another. They leave, and catch up with Valentine. But sadly, when he meets him, he also meets Valentine’s new love, Sylvia, he falls in love with her. He chooses to back stab his friend and betray his sweetheart. Meanwhile, Julia decides to follow him….and of course
It is a play about love, intrigue and betrayal. Unrequited love. Dedicated love. Love between parents and children. Love that is really lust. There’s the love explained by . someone who has lived life and lost their love. The love that Valentine has for Proteius, which endures all things. It is a simple play but a simple play with a twist. The twist? It is one of forgiveness.
So, that is the story in a nutshell.
But how did the online reading go? Honestly, bloody brilliantly. I loved every second. The actors bothered to find props, they acted every word as if they were on a stage. There may have been no audience for whom they could perform but they continued just as if there were. I also think it is likely they were performing for themselves, for each other as, at this time, doing what we love and having moments of escapism are essential.
I have to be honest, I have also enjoyed seeing where the 21 actors were performing from. Kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms. Some with bottles of wine in the background, some with brightly coloured walls, some with beautiful art. For a brief moment, we had an insight into the lives of those who were providing us with their time and talent. This has made the whole thing feel more intimate and, somehow more of a special experience.
The thing I have loved the most was that it is unlikely that this group of actors would ever have had the chance to get together if it weren’t for the situation we find ourselves in so, for that, I am grateful. They are from all over the world – the UK, Iceland, America and beyond.
The cast are genuinely incredible. I will just list them now and I hope to get everyone’s Twitter tags later. Sarah Peachy – the Director for tonight’s show led:
Luke Barton, Nick Leos, Lucy Aarden, Esmonde Cole, Montgomery Sutton, Beth Burns, Chloe Wigmore, Jennifer Glover, Emily Carding, Brian Gillete, Geoffrey Mandarny (sorry for the spelling), Bonnie MacBird, Andrew AB, Ally Poole, Disa Andersen, Jes Gislason, Sarah Ingram and Mark Burghagen.
We are now at the half time point and I am going to stop and enjoy the second half without trying to write things. But safe to say, I cannot wait for next week’s performance.
Ben Crystal said at the start “We may be separate and isolated but we are in this web together and we are stronger for it.” I couldn’t agree more