[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/11151?ns=guardian&pageName=The+Entertainer%2C+Vakomana+Vaviri+Ve+Zimbabwe%2F+The+Two+Gentlemen+of+Veron%3AArticle%3A1304530&ch=Stage&c3=Obs&c4=Theatre%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Clare+Brennan&c7=09-Nov-15&c8=1304530&c9=Article&c10=Feature%2CReview&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FTheatre[/img]A magnificent revival of The Entertainer and a two-man Shakespeare play impress Clare Brennan
A mirror ball, 3ft across, descends into the bleak boarding house, scattering red-white-and-blue beams over the brown sofa, brown table, brown sideboard, brown chairs; above the ball, a majestic crown from which stream bunting union jacks. This is the tawdry, cheeky-chappie world of The Entertainer, John Osborne's 1957 allegory of the death of empire as refracted in the decline of a failing seaside music hall.
David Schofield is magnificent as the titular anti-hero Archie Rice (a role created by Laurence Olivier). There's not a shred of pathos in his coruscating incarnation of the philandering husband, feckless father, washed-up impresario and song-and-dance music-hall man who has spent so much of his life projecting false images that he has nothing real left inside except the knowledge of his own despair. Schofield's evocation of the drunken Archie, longing to become an old black woman he once heard sing – to be able to feel as she could feel – is extraordinarily powerful: the image of desolation yearning for hope.
Time has not been kind to Archie, nor to Osborne: the plot creaks, the characters are often mouthpieces, the third act, like Harry Lauder, just keeps on going. Director Greg Hersov doesn't waste time trying to hide these failings; instead, he focuses his actors into an intelligently modulated ensemble, highlighting the play's enduring strength – its limelight-cruel examination of the place of truth in our lives.
The terrible consequences of lies are laid bare in a seriously entertaining version of Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Zimbabwean actors Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyevu play all 15 roles with music-hall aplomb skilfully tempered by emotional insight.
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Guardian: The Entertainer, Vakomana Vaviri Ve Zimbabwe/ The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Theatre reviews
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