There's a suave modernity, too, in Edward Hall's production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, with male bonding coming unstuck when love leaps in. Capable performances carry this, particularly Dominic Rowan and Tom Goodman-Hill as the title twosome.
Judgment is severely weighed out in the big house Shakespeares. In Michael Boyd's Measure for Measure, Robert Glenister's Duke disguises himself as a blind Friar; no wonder - from the start he's been incapable of looking anyone in the eye and leaves his farewell speech on a recording. Angelo (Boxer again) and Isabella (Clare Holman) face each other literally buttoned-up and have to realise their repressed natures. Hence Holman's Isabella eventually, but very slowly, accepts the Duke's final marriage offer.
In Gregory Doran's production of The Merchant of Venice, Philip Voss gives Shylock an initial comic energy, with sinister undertones. Never has a Shylock shown more care for Jessica, the daughter he loses.
Adrian Noble offers a Tempest unusually dark and emphasising the chain of wished-for revenge, from Caliban to Prospero, from Prospero to the shipwrecked lords. Pointedly, Miranda addresses her 'brave new world' lines to the two biggest villains around. And there's a Twelfth Night notable for Boxer's Feste, but otherwise the kind of production that declares a director without a feel for comedy.
Shadows, an evening of three Irish one-act plays by Synge and Yeats, is useful background for anyone studying O'Casey or Friel. Despite good company work, notably David Westhead's radio presenter in Stephen Poliakoff's Talk of the City, there's little of note among the work apart from Roberto Zucco, in which Bernard-Marie Koltes applies his interest in human relations as transactions to the story of a parricide.
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE:(Sept 28 to Oct 24, tel: 0191 232 2061) Theatre Royal The Merchant of Venice, Sept 28 to Oct 3; The Tempest, Oct 6-10; Measure for Measure, Oct 13-17; Twelfth Night, Oct 20-24.
Newcastle Playhouse Bartholomew Fair, Sept 28 to Oct 3; The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Oct 5-10; Talk of the City, Oct 12-17.
Gulbenkian Studio Goodnight Children Everywhere, Sept 28 to Oct 3; Shadows, Oct 5-10; Bad Weather, Oct 13-17; Roberto Zucco, Oct 20-24.
PLYMOUTH: (Nov 2-28, tel: O1752 267222) Theatre Royal The Merchant of Venice, Nov 2-7; The Tempest, Nov 10-14; Measure for Measure, Nov 17-21; Twelfth Night, Nov 24-28.
Plymouth Pavilions Bartholomew Fair, Nov 3-7; The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Nov 10-14; Talk of the City, Nov 17-21.
Drum Goodnight Children Everywhere, Nov 2-7; Shadows, Nov 9-14; Bad Weather, Nov 16-21; Roberto Zucco, Nov 23-28.