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Nick Bagnall talks about The Two Gentlemen of Verona

I wanted to direct The Two Gentlemen of Verona after a conversation with Emma Rice who was really keen to do a co-production with us here at the Everyman & Playhouse. We spoke about comedies which was what she was really keen on me doing. And, it just felt like the perfect fit between The Globe, the outdoor venues that it travels to and then finishing with a final flurry at the Everyman.

Why did you set the play in 1966?

This play is about teenagers running headlong into their future and making terrible mistakes. So, '66 was a period where enagers were able to live their dreams... America became available. There was a kind of easy translation musically into that because there was such a mishmash of music. On one hand we had Jim Reeves and Kenn Dodd. On the other hand we  then had The Beatles, Bob Dylan and all those greats that we know of and love and all those incredible bands of the 60s. We also had this American influence of really dirty garage music as well.

When I was looking at the play, the play sits beautifully amongst those tones of music in the sense that Verona is a very grey, I call it a cardigan clad world. Jim Reeves is top of the charts and it's a place that has no sex and no threat. It's a place that teenagers wanted to escape from, which is the first scene of the play. Valentine leaves Verona to go and go to Milan. So, musically, Jim Reeves again sits beautifully in that world of Verona but in Milan you're in a kind of super slick, sexy, ready-steady-go, Peter Blake, Beatles album covers, sexy, funky... Then in the second half of my production, I frame the whole of the second half with a band called The Outlaws which is a kind of Bo-Diddley, Bob Dylan, plugged in, electric, really dirty, grungy forest band. So, musically, texturally, it all sits beautifully in 1966.

What's the reaction been like to the tour so far?

It's been amazing, really amazing, kind of gob-smacking in the sense that people have really gone for this concept that we've done. I think it's called a problem play and actually, the biggest most flattering comment I've had so far is from the purists of Shakespeare who've been saying it's so fresh. As I was just saying to you off camera, we've played to so many people and I've not heard anything negative about it. It's been amazing, we've had standing ovations all around the country including all over Europe and there's still a long way to go so the show can only get tighter. So the response has been overwhelming actually.

What can audiences expect at the Everyman?

A big, joyous, open-hearted, inclusive, accessible Shakespeare that won't pull any punches but that will be very full of joy and anarchy and songs and romance and chaos. And a beautiful gang of actors that are multi-skilled and multi-talented and play many different roles with great aplomb.