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Alex Avery
You are in: home > about the play > working with the language > avery Brigid Zengeni

Alex Avery I learnt more about the language in 'Caesar' than I did in 'Two Gents'. I think that’s quite simply because Julius Caesar is a much better written play. I always thought it was one of the great plays but I really do think it’s a phenomenal piece of writing.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona doesn’t have that. It doesn’t have that sense of a line being somewhere specifically so that it can be referred to later on. There’s a great scene of 'Caesar' outside the Senate where no line is out of place. The whole thing is a chess game – it’s manouvering pieces towards a checkmate. With The Two Gentlemen of Verona it’s much more up to the director and the actors to make sense of how to interpret. The language is not overly rich in classical allusions. It’s actually quite simple which is great, but when you read it the outlaw scene comes across as being very juvenile, and I think there are a lot of problem lines in that scene, which we’ve managed to, or Fiona has managed to, walk over, because the whole play doesn’t allow the weakness of that scene to shine through. In a lesser production it would, it would completely shatter everything you’ve done before. So you can get away with lines like ‘Because you’re beautified with goodly shape’ or ‘provided you do no outrages on silly women’. I think in Shakespeare’s day these jokes would have been probably played for laughs. I think the whole play would have been played a lot more for laughs than we are. That’s quite a nice challenge; to make these unintelligible lines for an audience intelligible. They may not understand what we’re saying but they do understand why we’re saying it and how we’re saying it.

If you’re going to talk about the language and the lines you have to talk about one of the last lines in the play, which for Valentine is the challenge, one of the reasons you take the part. It’s the line that just does not work nowadays, ‘All that was mine in Sylvia I give thee. You have to build the entire production up to that moment, so that the actor can make sense of it. I think we do that. That’s a classic situation of a line in Shakespeare meaning something completely different. I genuinely think that when he wrote that line there would have been no problem for the actor saying it. The audience would have understood – there would not have been a problem, but with a modern-day audience you cannot get away with that line...it was written for an audience that not only was full of men that were happy to have a laugh at a woman’s expense, but equally women who will not be offended by that. That’s a reflection of their status. No one would be offended by that remark.

Equally I think it’s at a time when the love between two men is a greater love for some reason. There seems to be a sense from what I’ve read that the function of a male/female relationship is purely for the family and to procreate, to have a family. But a love between two men is something that you choose. You have arranged marriages, and I suppose what I’m saying is that a friendship between two men is created by the desires and wills of those two men, whereas a relationship between a man and a girl is actually probably constructed completely peripheral to whatever the feelings of the said boy and girl are. That line becomes difficult because effectively I think what he is saying is quite genuinely ‘everything I have in Sylvia is yours’ i.e. I love you not only as much as I love Sylvia but more. A modern-day audience won’t understand that. It’s not because it’s a homosexual relationship. It’s just that they won’t understand the values of male friendships in the same way that sixteenth century England valued them. That’s why the line sticks out. However, if you’re going to put on Shakespeare you don’t cut lines because you can’t get away with it. I think it’s a challenge and you should see if you can make it work.