THEATRE REVIEW: ROMEO AND JULIET.
THERE IS SOMETHING eminently satisfying and comforting in this world, where everything is off kilter, of knowing that certain traditions are being upheld with a great sense of fierceness. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has, in its wisdom and generosity, established a free to view platform that will change each fortnight, presenting pickings of its recorded repertoire. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet graced the e-waves last night in a production directed by Dominic Dromgoole and performed in 2009. It’s a treat.
Featuring a wonderful cast, this work makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back into the late 16th century, with all the bells and whistles present as props onstage, and an audience filling the wooden auditorium to the rafters, including the standing room only around the stage. And indeed, there are no technological or moral sleights of hand in this beautiful love story.
Featuring the delightful Adetomiwa Edun as Romeo opposite his demure and articulate but supremely innocent Juliet (Ellie Kendrick), the work is unapologetically unedited and with not even a 30 second interval will keep you glued to your screen. That absence of a small break is an interesting decision on the part of the decision makers at the Globe. While a three hour production is a hefty bite into your evening, you do feel the need to boost your blood flow or stimulate your sugar levels about 90 minutes into the work.
Another disappointment in this sterling work comes not in the presentation itself, or its performances, but rather in the magicking of it for a youtube audience. There are a number of fights in this work. Indeed, there is a fight choreographer employed specifically for the task. The filming of the fights is mostly very close up which gives you a filmic sense of the pandemonium at hand, but disables you from seeing the choreography properly.
Having said that, it is also some of the subsidiary cast members who glow and shimmer with authenticity, making this work so vital. Fergal McElherron plays several characters including “Peter”, a Capulet servant who famously cannot read or sing. His enthusiasm for attempting both, though, is unabated and the hilarity of his presence, both verbal and physical, offers a beautiful foil to the tragedy at hand.
Penny Layden is the Nurse, who eases the young Juliet through the motions of lying to her mum and doing the dirty with the boy she loves, is another stand-out performance. With blacked out teeth, this older woman who is not yet old, but has seen a thing or sixteen in her lifetime, is rendered with texture and directness that make you love her.
And then, of course, there is Paris, the Capulets’ intended groom. Articulated with the same sense of the ludicrous as Daniel Day-Lewis’s “Cecil” in James Ivory’s 1985 film A Room with a View, the young man is pleasant enough to behold, but oh, his annoying mannerisms make you realise very soon that he’s not the boy for young Juliet, even if you don’t know the plot of this great work.
Soon after the proverbial curtain rises, you slip into the sexually explicit and oft outrageous nuances and the myriad of Shakespearean phrases which have become platitudes in common parlance, but these are handled with smooth professionalism – in the same way that the best standards appear in the Met’s recent production of Porgy and Bess – leaving you feeling suitably spoilt, culturally speaking.
- Romeo and Juliet is written by William Shakespeare and adapted by Arthur Brooke. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole and produced by Conrad Lynch for The Globe Theatre in London, it is performed by a cast headed by Holly Atkins, Philip Cumbus, Adetomiwa Edun, Jack Farthing, Miranda Foster, Ellie Kendrick, James Lailey, Penny Layden, Fergal McElherron, Michael O’Hagan, Rawiri Paratene, Ian Redford, Ukweli Roach, Tom Stuart, Graham Vick and Andrew Vincent. Produced and presented by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, it features a quintet of musicians: Arngeir Hauksson, Amy Kelly, Sharon Lindo, William Lyons and Nicholas Perry, and creative input by Nigel Hess (music), Simon Daw (production design), Pam Humpage and Louise Ricci (hair/make-up), Bella Lagnado (props), Neil Ottley (sound), Malcolm Ranson (fight director), Charlotte Bevan and Helen Hillman (casting), Hannah Lobelson (costumes), Dan Canham (movement) and Mike Akers (dramaturgy). It is available on demand for free until May 4 via Shakespeare’s Globe’s youtube channel.