Director David Thacker sets his version of Romeo and Juliet in a far-from-fair Verona. This is an unflinching look at a society full of crude and violent men, abusive parents, calculating women and complacent authority. It grabs attention but one struggles to find any sympathetic characters. Although Kieran Hill’s Mercutio is a more rounded figure than the usual eternal bachelor and almost sends-up the macho male concept.
There are a number of distractions in the production. The dry ice is obstructive as much as atmospheric and Juliet’s balcony resembles a diving platform. David Ricardo-Pearce’s twitchy and tormented Romeo over-uses hand gestures to the point of irritation.
Jade Anouka is a lively and inquisitive Juliet and can certainly engage the audience. Strangely, however, Thacker does not develop the relationship between the lovers. The humanity in the play comes instead from secondary characters – Michelle Collins’ foxy Nurse and Colin Connor’s perceptive Friar Lawrence
Thacker imaginatively lets the action spill off the stage around the theatre and, along with Terry King, delivers some disturbingly realistic fight scenes.
Ulimately, this is a production in which modern audiences will find much that they recognise but few characters to actually like – a failing in a love story.