This play couldn’t be more different from The Rover, which is the last time I saw most of this cast.
The Two Noble Kinsmen is Shakespeare and Fletcher’s take on The Knight’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I studied The Knight’s Tale, briefly, for A-level English Lit so I knew the story even though I have never seen the play before. It is supposed to be a tale of chivalry; essentially, as I see it, this is play about how men (mostly anyway) see violence as a way of solving problems, how ego gets in the way and how it spirals.
The death of 3 kings is revenged by war, so there is more fighting, more death. Two boys squabble over a woman – one who doesn’t even know they exist – and decide that fighting to the death is the only way to decide who she belongs to! Perhaps some of the so called World Leaders should be made to watch this play so they can see how ludicrous their posturing and warmongering is!
I thought Jamie Wilkes and James Corrigan were very believable as the cousins Arcite and Palamon. Their arguments and rivalry over Emilia were exactly what you would expect from teenagers in the playground! I could almost hear the eldest honorary nephews when they were teenagers in the dialogue.
It was an amazing transformation to see Danusia Samal morph from the sophisticated, beautiful singer of The Rover to the lovelorn, bewildered and smitten Jailer’s Daughter of this play.
Again, as with The Rover, there seemed to be quite a few cast members who were there as decoration rather than playing a meaningful part in moving the story forward.
The staging was very different from The Rover. Gone was the central staircase and instead we had a series of grills round the edge of the stage, which could be raised or lowered to create different environments. From where I was sitting, at the front of the stage, this was very effective but I suspect I might have felt differently had I been sitting at the side with people hanging off the grills above my head or kicking it violently about a foot from my face (the lady this happened to didn’t return after the interval! And I haven’t yet been to an RSC production this season where everyone has returned after the break).
I didn’t hate this play but I can’t say I loved it either. I think this is more to do with my belief that violence solves nothing than Blanche McIntyre’s direction. As a RSC directorial debut I thought it was an interesting take. I would like to another, more familiar play directed by her to be able to make a more informed decision, unfortunately Titus Andronicus, which she directs next season won’t be it; “and everyone dies” plots aren’t really my thing!