Romeo and Juliet, Theatre Royal Nottingham, Tour, 3***: Alan Geary


Romeo and Juliet: William Shakespeare


Theatre Royal, Nottingham

Runs: 2h 40m: one interval: touring


Pared down, but worth a look.

In the programme notes for this RSC touring production, director Erica Whyman spells out what she’s trying to do. By up-dating it to the contemporary world, she wants Romeo and Juliet to appeal to young audiences. Two of a few ways Whyman tries to achieve this is by using modern costumes; and, more importantly, by having a lot of the male characters played by women. Additionally, a handful of young people drawn from wherever the play is showing are brought into proceedings.

Whyman also emphasises the striking parallels between the violent rivalries on the dusty streets of Verona and present-day urban Britain’s knife crime epidemic, largely associated with gang rivalry.

The modern costume wheeze works, but only up to a point. Having everyone dressed in contemporary street gear, or something very like it, flattens the play. It removes visual clues to social status, or even to precisely who’s who. The latter problem is compounded by some poorly articulated line delivery, especially in the first part.

Women playing men presents no problem except with respect to Mercutio. The most compelling male figure, he’s far more interesting than the terminally wet and self-pitying Romeo (Bally Gill). Charlotte Josephine plays Mercutio well, but without properly conveying his deep neuroticism. Instead she makes him annoyingly hyperactive, bounding about all over the place like Puck out of that other play. If he was a friend of yours, you’d do your best to lose him.

Karen Fishwick’s Juliet is by far the strongest person in the play. Not only has Juliet the best lines but Fishwick delivers them clearly, in a striking Scots accent. (the production is something of an accent fest). The Nurse is beautifully done by Ishia Bennison, who makes her brassy, common and, in the end, pathetic. And Michael Hodgson is an excellent Capulet, with his terrifying mood swings.

A bare and square metallic-looking set is functional. But like other features of the production, it’s aesthetically puritanical and pared-down. Just for instance, there’s no balcony.


Abraham: Nima Taleghani
Balthasar: Tom Padley
Benvolio: Josh Finan
Lady Montague: Sakuntala Ramanee
Montague: Paul Dodds
Romeo: Bally Gill
Sampson: Stevie Basaula
Gregory: Donna Banya
Tybalt: Raphael Sowole
Capulet: Michael Hodgson
Lady Capulet: Marian Hague
Peter: Raif Clarke
Nurse: Ishia Bennison
Juliet: Karen Fishwick
Cousin Capulet: John Macaulay
Escalus: Beth Cordingly
Paris: Afolabi Alli
Mercutio: Charlotte Josephine
Friar Laurence: Andrew French
Sister John/Apothecary: Katy Brittain

Director: Erica Whyman
Designer: Tom Piper
Lighting Designer: Charles Balfour
Sound Designer: Jeremy Dunn
Composer: Sophie Cotton

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