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Romeo & Juliet (Globe)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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What’s in a name indeed? Young Hearts is the name for the new Globe season and young hearts is what we get. The pair of star-crossed lovers is played by as youthful a duo as one is likely to see.

Dominic Dromgoole’s production doesn’t always come off (why, for example, does Juliet go to bed in the middle of the Capulet living room?) but there’s plenty here to stir the soul. It captures the excitement of young love and the tragic waste of premature death, as well as providing a sense of the desperate urgency with which the relationship unfolds.

In Adetomiwa Edun, the Globe has unearthed a fine Romeo. After a somewhat uneasy start, he quickly finds his feet and surmounts the tricky acoustics of the Globe. What he captures perfectly is the capricious nature of youth – one certainly can envisage this Romeo falling in love with Juliet as quickly as he fell out of love with Rosaline. And there's real anger in his duel with Tybalt – this is not a young man reluctantly drawn into a fight, this is someone out to revenge a friend’s death, whatever it takes.

Ellie Kendrick’s Juliet certainly has youth on her side even if she's demonstrably uncomfortable with the verse.  But there’s a delightful innocence about her and she's entirely believable as a young girl finding the first fruits of love.

There’s a strangely melancholic Mercutio, courtesy of Philip Combus. He’s not quite the wise-cracking wit we’re used to; rather, there’s something fatalistic and world-weary about his behaviour.  And in the way he seeks to sexually humiliate the Nurse, we can see him as a man not truly happy in his own skin.

It’s not just the principals who are youthful; Dromgoole has also chosen a Nurse and Lady Capulet much closer to the age that Shakespeare intimates they are. After all, these aren’t characters on their last legs but women barely into middle age. Penny Layden’s Nurse in particular has a feistiness about her suggesting that she’s fiercely protective of her young charge. I also liked Rawiri Paratene’s strongly-spoken Friar Lawrence, suitably robust – as befits the originator of much of the action in the second half of the play.

A special mention for the music; a quartet of singers provides commentary on the text with songs beautifully set by Nigel Hess, and the musical accompaniment complements the staging excellently.

This is a strong start to the season. If we’re truly in for a long and hot summer, on this evidence the Globe could well be the place to be.

- Maxwell Cooter


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