ROMEO AND JULIET: William Shakespeare.
RSC, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 3h 25m, one interval, till 24 January 2009
Review: Rod Dungate, 5 December 2008
Tragedy without humanity.
A dramatic opening; a dark suited and dressed cast walk into the space and provide the context for the play – the group inform us they will relate a story from which we must learn an important message. Then the on-stage band strikes up; we are in no doubt where we are.
So director Neil Bartlett has a strong concept and context for his production, but somehow the human story, in which the true drama lies, gets lost. With characters often controlling the production’s artefacts, bringing about scene and lighting changes, with ‘knife’ sound effects, the production frequently feels over directed and flow is sacrificed. Characters’ constant clapping, slapping and clicking of fingers becomes contrived and irritating.
Bartlett encourages his actors to explore hot Italian manners and mannerisms, yet his dark and brooding costuming and sets directly work against the feeling of Italian heat that accompanies the passion. It’s a gigantic mismatch. On the other hand, at times of most passion – for instance weeping over Tybalt’s body – when passion would naturally come to the fore, the production goes into silent mode; all very puzzling.
Over the past several months in Stratford’s Courtyard Theatre, we have become used to watching actors speak texts with great understanding and subtlety; one of the advantages offered by the thrust stage. But in this production actors declaim lines at each other, unsupported with real meaning; the result is that the play is hard to focus on.
David Dawson and Anneika Rose are an attractive Romeo and Juliet, but have yet to make sufficient engagement with the text and with each other. Gyuri Sarossy creates a fine Mercutio – a real aristo and turned on by thoughts of fighting and killing. Daniel Percival’s Benvolio is also well conceived.
Bartlett is a strong director, but here he has failed to join up his ideas; this R and J is a very long haul.
Samson: Dan Crow.
Gregory: Ryan O’Donnell.
Balthasar: Michael Benz.
Benvolio: Daniel Percival.
Tybalt: Mark Holgate.
Lord Capulet: Christopher Hunter.
Lady Capulet: Eva Magyar.
Lord Montague: Mark Ross.
Lady Montague: Katie Krane.
The Prince of Verona: Vinta Morgan.
Romeo: David Dawson.
Count Paris: Ben Ashton.
Peter: Owain Arthur.
Juliet’s Nurse: Julie Legrand.
Juliet: Anneika Rose.
Mercutio: Gyuri Sarossy.
A Cousin of Lord Capulet: Geoffrey Newland.
Three Capulet Housemaids: Niamh McCann, Sian Robins-Grace, Rebecca Wingate.
Friar Laurence: James Clyde.
An Apothecary: Craig Ritchie.
Friar John: James G Bellorini.
Directed by: Neil Bartlett.
Designed by: Kandis Cook.
Lighting Designed by: Bruno Poet.
Music by: Simon Slater.
Sound Designed by: Christopher Shutt.
Movement by: Lead Hausman.
Company Text and Voice Work by: Alison Bomber.
Fights by: Alison de Burgh.
Assistant Director: Vik Sivalingam.
Casting by: Siobhan Bracke.