This Romeo and Juliet find their Verona updated to 1950s Italy, like a Fellini film but one steeped in Catholic iconography, from crucifixes and rosary beads to the walls of Francis O'Connor's grey, deathly set which is embellished with plaques and flowers in remembrance of the dead. With this religiosity the backdrop for the Capulet's lively festivities (full of finger clicking good tunes by Terry Davies and Lisa Kent's lively Latino choreography) and some distinctly unholy behaviour (brawls, bawdiness and murder), director Dominic Hill neatly encompasses a world of contradictions and extremes.
The company work impressively together, all the relationships totally convincing, and there's a real sense of camaraderie out of which some lovely spontaneous moments arise. Individual performances are so strong and balanced that many of the actors in supporting roles distinguish themselves as much, if not more than, the 'leads'. Alan Westaway's Romeo is all unfulfilled potential, watchable but never reaching the depth of emotion necessary to fully convince. He does however achieve a charming chemistry with the Juliet played by Laura Main, who treads that difficult line between teenager and adult.
Elsewhere, John Hodgkinson's sneering Mercutio lacks colour and detail. Not so for Carol Macready's brummy Nurse, whether giggling or blubbing it's hard to avert your eyes from her energetic antics. Other notables are Christopher Godwin as the erratic Capulet and Benedict Cumberbatch as the honey-voiced Benvolio.
All in all Dominic Hill's production is engaging, and the fiery Italian spirit is not dampened in the least by any intermittent British summer drizzle.
- Hannah Khalil