A TENDER THING
by Ben Power.
The Dukes Moor Lane LA1 1QE To 17 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Wed & Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 14 Oct 7.30pm.
BSL Signed 15 Oct.
Runs 1hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 01524 598500.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 October.
It starts seeming a quirky idea and ends-up deeply moving.
Ben Power has done to Romeo and Juliet the kind of thing London-based American theatre director Charles Marowitz did to William Shakespeare’s plays – notably Hamlet – in the 1960s and 1970s. He’s shortened the script, cut-and-pasted it, reassigning lines between characters to create, or reveal, a particular perspective. The impact, though, is less radical, and certainly less aggressive in mood and in uprooting the original.
There have been a lot of ‘what if’s about Romeo and Juliet, disregarding the play around, its poetry mired in clumsy dramatic invention. Some years ago at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in A Factory Romeo and Juliet, director Alan Lyddiard examined the result if the lovers weren’t the beautiful people they saw in each other.
Shakespeare offered a disenchanted view of young lovers in the more sceptical Troilus and Cressida. But the chief question has always been, what might have happened if the lovers had lived on.
Power gives a gentle, yet detailed suggestion in A Tender Thing, bringing them down-to-earth, landing them in a north of England town, placing them among ordinary working folk, where they remain the cream in each other’s coffee.
Amid the daily grind, amid sometimes bleak aspects, survival of love into late middle-age shows endurance and strong character. In the Round auditorium, designer Rachel Daniels presents a table in a diner, where a Lancashire Harry might have met a local Sally, transforming into a bed where a lifelong partnership is forged.
At times surrounded by Lucas Button and Ruby Henderson, dancing memories of their joyous young selves, Ian Blower and Jenny Lee have a stiffer, more resigned existence, bringing dignity and individuality to faces and voices that might normally be indistinguishable in any crowd. When death and separation threaten, it isn’t family hatreds but medical diagnosis – first seen in a letter she instinctively tries concealing from him. Only momentarily; these two share all aspects of their lives.
This is the point where Power’s reworking and Louie Ingham’s production begin to grip, the players providing that intensification of the ordinary created by Nature’s inevitability, in a warm-hearted reinvention that remains faithful in every sense.
Romeo: Ian Blower.
Young Romeo: Lucas Button.
Young Juliet: Ruby Henderson.
Juliet: Jenny Lee.
Director: Louie Ingham.
Designer: Rachel Daniels.
Lighting: Brent Lees.
Composer: Mark Melville.