by William Shakespeare adapted by Michael Wicherek with OneNess Sankara.

Unicorn Theatre (Weston auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 9 May 2013.
11am 9 May.
2pm 7-9 May.
7pm 8, 9 May.
Captioned 8 May 7pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 May.

Energetic and youthful segment of Shakespeare’s play opens-up several questions.
In Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare came up with a fine idea, but the play that contains them has lots of flaws. The non-tragic tragedy, the dramatic inequality of hero and heroine (and their families) the tiresome comedy of Juliet’s Nurse (for goodness’ sake, somebody pension her off), the rush of plot in later acts with desperate steps, the simplistic characterisation. Time and again I’ve heard people say it’s the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for teenagers; as often I’ve seen teenagers bored or indifferent during performances.

Michael Wicherek’s 70-minute reduction for his Box Clever theatre company has a lot going for it, therefore. Sometimes the mix of terse modern speech and Shakespeare’s poetic arches can jolt. But the undercutting of Romeo’s linguistic flights is well-deserved. And moments early on uneasily suggesting the production’s siding with a teenage (13+) audience against the play, are soon resolved.

What is happening is that the intensity of Romeo’s desire for Juliet is being questioned. He’d been pining for Rosaline only recently; now he reckons he’s instantly in love. Does he know what love is? The question’s well put in Iqbal Khan’s physical production, where the lovers clamber over Lucy Osborne’s climbing-frame set, a heart-shape set awry. It’s a shape mirrored in a platform where the lovers finally come together, experience now filling-out Romeo’s feelings. And on that heart-shape as they embrace, she dies – it’s the sharpest moment, a quiet, dying fall after a great deal of sound and fury as underscoring to the emotional intensity of the young lovers, played with raw physical and vocal energy by Jessie Dubieniec and David Ajao, Carl Chambers keeping up the pace in his questioning.

With so much context gone, it’s probably best suited to audiences who have some knowledge of the play; the cuts and selection of material can then act as its own commentary. At the same time, the mix of modern and Shakespearean lines opens up the matter of how much Shakespeare’s language creates his play’s meaning, while the boy/girl relationship and the wider link between intensity and duration in desire has its own interest.

Romeo: David Ajao.
Juliet: Jessie Dubieniec.
Narrator: Carl Chambers.

Director: Iqbal Khan.
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Lighting: Mike Hay, Pip Thurlow..
Sound: Virgil Howe.
Costume: Sarah Booth.
Dramaturg: Callie Brown.

2013-05-06 13:26:57

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