Co-written with John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen is one of Shakespeare’s last plays, and is something of a curiosity, not seeming to fit in to any particular type or style. This production at the Globe is the first by director Barrie Rutter since he stepped down from his role at Northern Broadsides, and Rutter brings his unique style to this rather odd play.
Palamon (Paul Stocker) and Arcite (Bryan Dick) are two cousins captured in battle; swearing undying devotion, they soon develop a rivalry for the affections of their captor King Theseus’ sister-in-law Emilia (Ellora Torchia). One is banished and one escapes, but they contrive to meet again and end up literally fighting for Emilia’s affections.
The play works well as a commentary on toxic masculinity: Emilia is seen as a prize to be won, sighing as she is informed that whoever loses the fight will die for love of her. Meanwhile the closeness between the two kinsmen is destroyed by their desire for the same woman.
Francesca Mills steals every scene she’s in as the jailer’s daughter who helps Palamon to escape, having fallen in love with him only to be ignored. A fine display of Morris dancing, choreographed by Ewan Wardrop, closes the first half.
It’s certainly a strange play but this production is well worth seeing.