ROMEO AND JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
The Roundhouse Chalk Farm NW1 8EH In rep to 1 January 2011.
7.15pm 23, 27 Dec, 1 Jan.
Runs 3hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 8008.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 December.
Darkness is the over-insistent strength of this production.
Like the dialogue novel by Fernando de Rojas from a century earlier that became known as La Celestina, Romeo and Juliet is a comedy about lovers that becomes a tragedy. Even the style isn’t traditionally considered tragic, only the outcome. It’s not character but events, dear boy, events, that turn the tale’s direction downwards.
Rupert Goold will have none of this in his Royal Shakespeare Company production. Everything’s dark from the start. Much of the action is played within the physical dark of night’s exterior, while flames, whether of conflict in Verona or as portents from Hell, project on the rear of the set, as spumes of hissing steam erupt from the floor.
In such a setting, youthful energy takes on a malign air, making the idyllic bubble in which Romeo and Juliet find themselves seem doomed. The warring families’ street-fighters check on their legal position with deliberate cunning rather than mere impetuosity. And if Jonjo O’Neill’s Mercutio takes conflict lightly, that’s probably because he thinks he’s safe, as the Prince’s relative not a Montague or Capulet. Oliver Ryan’s Benvolio, of the House of Montague, makes clear in word and look how dangerous the street is when Capulets arrive.
Goold helpfully clears away some of the clutter of the later scenes, moving the plot swiftly towards its end, cutting even the reconciliation of the two families. So the focus is on the lovers, marked out in their modernity, with Mariah Gale an assertive Juliet, discovering herself for the first time, and Sam Troughton (seen first as a modern tourist hearing the Prologue over a headset) an aptly eager, less self-aware Romeo.
Goold also has in Noma Dumuzweni’s Nurse a characterisation that clamps down on the supposedly humorous fussing to show a sympathetically concerned adult helping the girl she loves as if a daughter, and well able to handle the callow insults of the young Montagues she encounters in taking messages to Romeo. Upgraded within the Friars, Peter Peverley made a similarly clear Laurence in place of Forbes Masson.
Throughoujt, clarity and purpose drive this perceptive, though at times over-insistent, production.
Escalus: David Carr.
Mercutio: Jonjo O’Neill.
Paris: James Howard.
Lord Montague: David Rubin.
Lady Montague: Simone Saunders.
Romeo: Sam Troughton.
Benvolio: Oliver Ryan.
Balthasar: Gruffudd Glyn.
Abraham/Friar John/Watchman: Peter Peverley.
Lord Capulet: Richard Katz.
Lady Capulet: Christine Entwisle.
Juliet: Mariah Gale.
Tybalt: Joseph Arkley.
Nurse: Noma Dumuzweni.
Peter: Dyfan Dwyfor.
Cousin Capulet/Apothecary/Constable: Patrick Romer.
Sampson/Watchman: James Traherne.
Gregory: Dharmash Patel.
Friar Laurence: Forbes Masson.
Ladies: Debbie Korley, Kirsty Woodward.
Director: Rupert Goold.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Howard Harrison.
Sound/Music: Adam Cork.
Music Director: John Woolf.
Video/Projection: Lorna Heavey.
Choreographer: Georgina Lamb.
Company Text/Voice work: Alison Bomber.
Movement: Struan Leslie.
Fights: Terry King.
Assistant director: Michael Fentiman.