Review of RSC’s “The Two Noble Kinsmen”

I went to see “The Two Noble Kinsmen” by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher last night with a friend who is a theatre enthusiast like me and just like me is very much deprived of its pleasures due to…life. We decided to watch this very underrated, and in my case unheard of, play for these very reasons.Both my friend and I coincidentally tried something new last night. We stepped into the beautiful Swan Theatre like empty caskets as neither had researched what the play was about and were, therefore, utterly clueless about the plot. For the first time, we sat there in our blindness and let the characters guide us. Some would even say this is how it’s meant to be.

It started off with what was intended to be music but sounded more like a chaotic clutter of sounds from some actors who can sing. The king and queen were introduced along with the essential Emilia, to whom I will come back later, and other characters. It took until the two kinsmen showed up some 20-25 minutes later to figure out what was going on and the play started going somewhere. The comedy begins as soon as you realise that nothing that takes place in the play supports the claim that the kinsmen are “noble” apart from their rank, of which they remind the audience at every given opportunity. Only with words, not with actions. The latter in fact proves them to be as far from being noble in their disposition as Emilia was from being, wait for it, HETEROSEXUAL.

Yes. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Emilia.The only lesbian Shakespearean character I am aware of (please enlighten me if you know of another!). And one who does not shy away from what she wants or is, but speaks of it with strongly. She is a female character not defined in terms of her King brother’s fortune or her suitors’ advances. The main plot is centered around her as the two kinsmen fall, what can only be described as, madly in love with her on the first sight which shakes up the foundation of their friendship. It’s a strange love triangle where the girl is not interested in either of the men, on the basis of which one can argue that it’s not a triangle at all! In fact, what we experience is the two men fighting not only each other but an internal battle as well. Amidst their challenges to each other to win her over, there are times where they reminisce and one can see the bond that held them together since birth. I would not stand if I hear someone blaming Emilia for breaking up their friendship as is widely said when two men fall for the same women. And Shakespeare made a good point of it in this play where Emilia remains unaware of their feelings towards her until the very end.

Apart from the main plot, there is much foolery in the play involving morris dance, depictions of sexual liberation and joyous singing. Another story of unrequited love develops where a “fair maiden” literally loses her mind over one of the kinsmen. In the least Shakespearean fashion, the play ends quite abruptly with many lose ends and a death, quite dark given this is a comedy. No one gets their happy ending.

“The Two Noble Kinsmen” is there to show the frivolity of infatuation that is formed without cause, where two cousins are willing to kill each other when they don’t even know whether the object of their love reciprocates their feelings or not. All in all, it was very entertaining and I am glad I took the risk of going to the play without any expectations.

 

 

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