ROMEO AND JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
Illyria Tour to 5 September 2010.
Runs 3hr 5min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 10 July at Newstead Abbey.
Well up to Illyria’s high standards.
This Romeo and Juliet is well up to Illyria’s high standards when it comes to entertainment. What’s more, it’s also an interesting interpretation of the play.
Somewhat unusually, director Oliver Gray has emphasised the comedic elements in the play. Not just the bawdiness and the obvious bits involving the Nurse and so on; he draws out the humour underlying the first fight and the balcony scene, for example, and even the poison mix-up. And he doesn’t omit that slapstick low-life scene immediately after Juliet is found apparently dead, often cut.
It might have been a device to ensure adequate projection – particularly after last year’s weathery weather – but throughout proceedings there was too much addressing the audience instead of the appropriate character. Otherwise, a cast of just five did justice to Shakespeare’s verse: it was beautifully spoken.
William Finkenrath, who also did Lady Capulet, was superb as Mercutio, throwing us some Tommy Cooper and Frankie Howard as a bonus, and going into the audience during the Queen Mab speech. His scenes with Annie Lees Jones as the Nurse were outstanding. Paul Hayden’s Romeo was good; his Capulet was even better. The scene where he loses his temper with his daughter – Theresa Brockway was a strident Juliet – was the sort of knockabout where people, Nurse included, actually got knocked about. Surrounded as it was by all the fun, it was quite shocking.
Fights, especially the swordplay, which was splendidly done, were a special feature of the evening
It might have been a good idea to make the Prince of Verona a queen instead, an Elizabeth I look-alike moreover. But it was surely a false move to bolt ‘Fear No More’ onto the end of the play. It’s a song from a completely different work (Cymbeline); and coming after the authentic final speech, it’s anticlimactic.
But, reservations apart, this particular production of a great play, in an unbeatable setting, is ideal for a summer’s evening.
Cast: Theresa Brockway, William Finkenrath, Paul Hayden, Thomas Judd, Annie Lees Jones.
Director/Music: Oliver Gray.
Fight direction: Toby Gaffney.
Fight captains: William Finkenrath/Annie Lees Jones.