ROMEO AND JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal Tour to 9 April 2011.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review Mark Courtice 19 October at Theatre Royal, Winchester.
Clear version of a classic.
Pilot Theatre are brilliant at producing work that is especially attractive to young audiences, so it seems like a natural fit for them to tackle Shakespeare’s young person’s tragedy. They also make a virtue of clarity and immediacy – qualities vital to Shakespeare. This production demonstrates the strengths of their approach – and the limitations.
As there are only eight of them the actors take on quite a job delivering this intelligently cut version, which loses the older Montagues, but is clear and feels remarkably complete.
There are good performances; Rachel Spicer’s Juliet is played older than Shakespeare’s 13 year old, but gets the mix of adolescent temperament and tragedy-born premature maturity just right. She even dares a couple of rising inflections that work – surprising us and making the verse joltingly modern. Louisa Eyo makes the Nurse funny, tiresome and affecting. Richard James-Neale’s hippy Friar is engaging – he seems more comfortable with this part than Tybalt.
Seeming not to trust the text, and often struggling with the verse, some of the others too often substitute a crude gesture for meaning. Sandy Nuttgens’ ambient score plays under the entire show; there are moments when it sharply underpins the sense but sometimes it’s plain irritating.
Marcus Romer and Katie Posner’s production feels tentative and inconsistent. The handling of the young men for instance relies on a bumping and thumping physicality, while ignoring the poetry that makes them more than yobs (the fights are good though – quick and sharply deadly). The modern costumes aren’t stylish, reinforcing the feeling that this is street trouble in Shipley rather than a struggle amongst those who would rule Italy, which lessens the power of the tragedy by reducing the stakes.
The setting, bare black beams strewn with bunches of flowers, many in cellophane wrappers like roadside crash site tributes is effective and economical. It makes instant sense of the notion that this love even at its excited early beginnings is "death-marked".
Being Pilot Theatre, this is unpretentious, does not speak down to the audience, and is honest and clear, it just isn’t more than that.
Juliet: Rachel Spicer.
Romeo: Oliver Wilson.
Mercutio: Chris Lindon.
Tybalt/Friar Lawrence: Richard James-Neale.
Benvolio: Bryn Holding.
Lady Capulet: Mary Rose.
Capulet: William Travis.
Nurse/Prince: Louisa Eyo.
Directors: Marcus Romer, Katie Posner.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Composer: Sandy Nuttgens.
Dramaturg: Juliet Forster.