ROMEO AND JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
Tobacco Factory Raleigh Road BS To 4 April.
Mon-Wed; Sat 7.3pm Thu, Fri 8pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0117 902 0344.
then Tour to 27 June 2015.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 March.
A striking production with, for once, a Romeo who deserves his Juliet.
Coincidence, that frequent threat to dramatic credibility, does for Romeo and Juliet, while around them are characters who hardly register, unless the action’s slowed sufficiently to make the whole of a long play, not just its final scene, funereal.
That’s certainly not the case with this revival, from Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and their annual hosts Tobacco Factory Theatres. Director Polina Kalinina, a graduate of Sam Walters’ trainee directors’ programme at Richmond’s Orange Tree theatre, demonstrates that programme’s value.
Kalinina’s youthfully energetic production shows subtle responses to the script as well as theatrical flair. No wonder there’s a joint credit for choreography and fights; the scraps here are feasts of precision movement, only the actors’ deftness keeping them from becoming lethal. Warring Montagues and Capulet meet in a park, demolishing a roundabout to make weapons of metal bars. Then combat and choreography meet when Montagues are faced by masked Capulets, who turn out to be starting their Ball rolling.
As space and time elide, the park remains in the mind also as a safe space for the lovers, even though the location is ‘actually’ Juliet’s bedroom, or tomb; the action sweepingly inter-mixes love and death. Kalinina minimises the tedious characters (Shakespeare at his weakest with their self-consciousness).
Friar Laurence is anonymised, his ponderousness neutralised, Juliet’s Nurse (like Lady Capulet) is rightly cast young. She starts as an oh-so-unfunny ‘character’ before calming down (she doesn’t, though, make much of the Nurse’s recalling the dead Susan, a poignant moment from Bard in the Botanics’ recent tour).
Mercutio looks charismatic, necessarily in a characterborn to give ‘charisma’ a bad name. It’s almost possible to listen right through his account of Queen Mab (unlike the great Shakespeare speeches, neither an internal debate nor a public argument). And there’s a stark contrast with Tybalt, whose dress and demeanour indicate reliance on order and seriousness – they are Feste and Malvolio in the making.
If Daisy Whalley’s perfectly apt Juliet doesn’t shine brighter it’s only because Paapa Essiedu’s Romeo, hopeful, well-intentioned, naïve by turns, is, for once, an equal star in the night sky.
Gregory/Peter: Hanah Lee.
Samson/Paris: Jack Wharrier.
Balthasar: Joey Hickman.
Benvolio: Callum McIntyre.
Tybalt: Craig Fuller.
Capulet: Timothy Knightley.
Lady Capulet: Fiona Sheehan.
Prince: Alan Coveney.
Romeo: Paapa Essiedu.
Friar: Paul Currier.
Nurse: Sally Oliver.
Mercutio: Oliver Hoare.
Juliet: Daisy Whalley.
Director: Polina Kalinina.
Designer/Costume: Emma Bailey.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Sound/Composer: Tom Mills.
Musical Director (tour): Joey Hickman.
Associate director: Alex Howarth.
Choreographer/Fights: Jonathan Howell.
Fight captain: Jack Wharrier.
Dance captain: Hannah Lee.