It would be nice to be
able to say that Lynn Whitehead's production of Romeo and
Juliet is a worthy successor to the other Shakespeare
ones previously staged at this exquisite Georgian theatre. Alas, it's not.
Becca Gibbs' set
looks half-finished (there's a bunch of black tabs to stage left
which is highly distracting) and Heidi McEvoy-Swift's costumes may
suggest a type of peasant community anywhere between Sicily and the
Balkans struggling into the 20th century from the 19th, but they're
not easy on the eye.
None of which would
really matter unduly if the performances measured up to the text. It does become
worrying when the smaller parts seem to be better played than more
principal ones; some odd doubling of roles doesn't help. Moray
Treadwell, who makes patriarch Capulet into a credible, if never
particularly likeable, human-being is one example.
Rhys King's Paris is
an interesting study of a prissy, precise young man, perhaps overly
conscious of his status but prepared quite genuinely to fall in love
with Juliet, once the idea has been planted. He's much less successful
as Benvolio. Ali Watts makes the Prince a sharp-voiced autocrat
with real authority; his Mercutio doesn't work nearly as well.
This is a young man's
play which is basically about teenagers teetering on the brink of
adulthood and there are a quantity of knockabout high spirits on
display. Craig Vye's Romeo comes closest to respecting the text as
well as the character; you can believe in his sudden maturing once
the calf-love for Rosaline has been dissolved into a deeper passion
for Juliet and that this new-found intensity might well lead to tragedy.
Hannah Edwards as
Juliet is done no visual favours by her costume, which makes her
appear lumpish as well as childish, but she handles the traumatic
moment when she realises that her parents' protective cocoon is
really a cage very well. Friar Laurence, confessor and confidant to
both young people, is Richard Pryal; he also plays their nemesis, the dangerously volatile
As comfortable bodies
go, Beccy Wright's Nurse is cast in the traditional mode, too much
so for her to be credible as Friar John. Sian Polhill-Thomas is
Lady Capulet, arguably once a trophy bride for her husband, while
David Morley Hale takes on old Montague, the Capulet's main
servants (including the Nurse's much put-upon Peter) and the
straightened apothecary of the last act. There's incidental music by
Roger Wilson, but it seems to be tentative, almost something of an addition rather than integral.