On Thursday the 26th of January 2017 a group of Sixth Form students went to Stratford Upon Avon to watch a production of “The Two Noble Kinsmen” by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a play penned by Shakespeare and Fletcher based upon ‘The Knight’s Tale’ from Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ with this production being devised by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The story follows two princes, Palamon and Arcite, as they are captured by the king of Athens Theseus who warred against their king Creon after he refused the burial of three kings. Having found themselves in prison; the two princes happen to see the princess Emilia and are both equally smitten causing their friendship to turn into rivalry.
The production was utterly astounding; never before have I witnessed such a fun, dark and idiosyncratic play. The minimalist use of set and props exaggerates the emotion portrayed by the cast and creates a charm that is difficult to replicate. The choice of theatre lent itself well to the vision of the director Blanche McIntyre in the clever use of metal grates suspended from the ceiling to create a prison (to name but one example). It was a unique blend of modern with historical influences and provides a stunning piece to see as the costume was fantastic in its presentation and style, despite in some cases being comparatively simple or minimalistic it successfully presented character and links to the original period yet showed no fear in breaking such norms. The combination of medieval attire, jeans and suits demonstrated a world as confusing and imaginative as the love around which the story revolves. In particular the dancing troupe was the most utterly bizarre and unforgettable section in the entire play, words do not describe the insanity that was displayed in the performance during that scene.
The acting was superb and engaging, there was a massively powerful dynamic between the male leads of Palamon (James Corrigan) and Arcite (Jamie Wilkes). They cleverly portrayed the change in their relationship starting from being close friends to bitter enemies by the end due to their mutual love of Emilia and yet still showing that despite their conflict they still care about each other. These were hard roles to effectively perform and they did so flawlessly presenting nuanced characters who struggle to fight each other in their efforts to win the woman they love.
Equally splendid was Frances McNamee in her role of Emilia as she desperately tried to avert the conflict between the two, her desperation was extremely well performed especially at the end of the play. She displayed the conflict of Emilia with considerable skill and made me feel for her as she was torn in two directions as a result of Palamon and Arcite.
I do however consider the major failing of the production to be in its props and costume department. Although the sword props were absolutely fantastic as they were real (though blunt) other items such as the spears and axes were not of the same quality. Similarly with costume certain choices could have been improved upon such as with Hippolyta (Allison McKenzie) whose costume could have been better designed (especially at the end of the play). Although on the whole well designed the excellence that was displayed in the acting was not so consistent within the costume and props department.
To conclude, the performance was astounding and although costume and props did not always hold up to the same standard they were sufficiently well made so as to be a more minor complaint. As such I have to give it a 9/10 based upon my own personal enjoyment and objective reasoning in regards to the quality of acting and presentation.
-Eliot Luke, year 12