26 June 2015

The Two Noble Kinsmen at the White Bear Theatre showed that unknown Shakespeare can still be good Shakespeare


I am often tempted to the White Bear Theatre because I like the range of original performances that I have seen there and the location is reasonably convenient but The Two Noble Kinsmen made my "mandatory" list by the presence of the name William Shakespeare.

I had not heard of the play before so naturally I was a little suspicious but Wikipedia reassured me that The Two Noble Kinsmen was indeed part of the Shakespeare canon, albeit that it was co-written with John Fletcher. The asking price was just £14 which, if anything, almost put me off by being too cheap!

The evening went much as planned and followed a familiar routine with a long and rewarding walk from Kings Cross to Kennington where I had a beer and some grub in the Dog House before walking around the corner to the White Bear.

The play was a simple tragedy (despite Wikipedia listing it as a comedy). The two noble kinsmen were very close friends who had been captured after a battle and were sharing a prison cell where they were taunted by their jailer.

From their one small window they caught a glimpse of a young woman in the garden below and they both fell immediately and passionately in love with her. Very Shakespearean.

Once friends they became fierce rivals, something that their captor played to his advantage leading to them fighting to the death for the lady's hand. The tragedy was compounded with another plot involving the jailer's daughter who was in love with one of the two kinsmen and was distraught when rejected. Very Shakespearean.

The dialogue was very Shakespearean too so the whole thing worked very well in that respect.

The staging was very simple, as it usually is at the White Bear (it really is quite small) and, simple as it was, it did the job perfectly and we moved from prison cell to forest with effortless ease.

I have to mention the actors playing the two noble kinsmen, Cavan Clarke and Richard Blackman, as they were both stupendous. Their general acting was excellent and then they excelled themselves in a big fight scene, possibly the most realistic and energetic fight that I had ever seen on stage.

The Two Noble Kinsmen was a cracking production of an almost-Shakespeare play that deserves to be better known.

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