Alternative Shakespeare Festival
Old Joint Stock
Romeo and Juliet for All Time: 20 July, 21 July
Ophelia, Princess of Denmark: 27, 28 July
This Review: Romeo and Juliet for All Time, of performance, 20 July
Intriguing and theatrical re-exploration of the old tale.
There’s a lot of Shakespeare around at the moment (even more than usual). Even at the Old Joint Stock in Birmingham, where inamoment present a mini Alternative Shakespeare festival. ROMEO AND JULIET FOR ALL TIME is the first of two Shakespeare sequels, both written by Frank Bramwell.
R and J For All Time is an intriguing work created around a simple conceit (simple conceits are the best.) Friar Lawrence turns up in the Capulet tomb where both Romeo and Juliet are lying dead – Romeo having taken poison after killing Tybalt. The good Friar feels there are too many things left undone and unsaid and, rather against God’s better judgement, is allowed to bring R and J back to life to sort things out.
The two lovers come round, happy to be alive. But shocked to discover they can’t get out of the tomb, and even more shocked to discover they have only one hour of life to tie up loose ends and uncross crossed wires. Bramwell doesn’t make it clear what things have to be sorted out, but, wisely, leaves us to make that discovery with the two young people – thereby retaining our interest throughout.
The play loops around, scenes are replayed with shifting nuances. There’s good use of magic, too, well staged within this fringe theatre’s intimate resources. For the most part, Bramwell’s writing is taut, avoiding clunky pastiche, and thought-provoking. Occasionally, it becomes a bit too reverential, and I think the sudden inclusion of the Queen Mab speech at the end is a mistake – out of place and prolonging the conclusion.
Strong playing from the two young people, Rebecca Rogers and Ben Norris – high emotions and, when required, great pace and vocal clarity. Andy Alsop creates a human Friar, though Alsop’s performance becomes fuzzy at times. The production would benefit from a fourth actor; the double of Friar and Tybalt adds no extra layer of meaning and could release the play from doubling requirements.
Tina Hofmann paces her production well and creates some effective theatrical effects.
Friar Lawrence: Andy Alsop
Juliet: Rebecca Rogers
Romeo: Ben Norris
Director: Tina Hofmann
Scenery and Props: Richard Constable
Technical Manager: David Wake
Light and Sound: Colin Ward
Production Assistant: Alan Groucott