ROMEO & JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 13 March 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Tue, Thu 2pm & 6 March 2.30pm.
Audio-described 13 March.
Captioned 9 March 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01206 573948.
Review: Timothy Ramsden.
Sensual, sensational and evidence it can take seventeen to tango.
Around the time William Shakespeare penned this play, John Donne wrote his poem ‘The Triple Fool’, describing love’s passion being first constrained in verse, then liberated when set to music. Something similar happens to Juliet and her Romeo in this re-invention by director Ed Hughes, among the boldest pieces staged even by the adventurous Mercury Theatre (co-producing with Salida Productions).
From the opening, when onstage Buenos Aires Astillero tango-players strike their first hefty chord and a screen explodes into life with conflict images and the Prologue captioned while it’s spoken in Argentinian, the energy never lets up – a platform in the stalls becomes Juliet’s balcony, and other locations, Romeo roams the audience seeking Juliet.
And the band plays on, puzzled by British actors’ way with Shakespeare: one musician tries his hand at Hamlet by mistake, while Capulet’s illiterate servant gains from Julian Peralto struggling with English when touting his guest-list around. Hughes creates his production round Tango, as music of love and death, in a swift, déclassé account where Capulet roars at his disobedient daughter in fearsome Scottish accent, while Shuna Snow’s strong, detailed nurse seems socially upmarket of her employer.
Such things don’t seem faults, nor does it matter both Victoria Di Pace and Gus Gallagher are clearly not teenagers. For this is a production of broad sweeps, matched by the sudden, overt shifts in Aideen Malone’s lighting. Each voice is an instrument in the overall ensemble, an amalgam of words and music where, as in Wagner or Richard Strauss, the vocal line sometimes predominates, sometimes, in the musical sections here, swept-up in the instrumental flow.
Tango music illuminates the Ball, naturally, but also scenes of conflict and love. At the most lyrical moments it seems to determine the rhythm of words. And, giving emotional depth to moments in the action, it allows them to proceed quickly – as Romeo dies from poison, Juliet (with fine irony her ‘death’-bed becomes her tomb) suddenly awakes and instantly realises what’s happened: without the pounding music it could seem ridiculous; here, it has breathtaking immediacy. As does so much in this imaginative, re-imagined evening.
Romeo: Gus Gallagher.
Juliet: Maria Victoria Di Pace.
Friar Lawrence/Montague: Keith Dunphy.
Nurse: Shuna Snow.
Lady Capulet: Gina Isaac.
Capulet: Ian Pirie.
Tybalt: Ed Hughes.
Mercurio: Javier Alcina.
Benvolio/Paris: Luciano Dodero.
Rosaline: Andrea Pelaez.
‘Cello: Luciano Falcon.
Bandoneon: Mariano Gonzalez Calo, Javier Sara.
Double Bass: Federico Maiocchi.
Piano: Julian Peralta.
Singer: Miguel Suarez,
Violin: Martijn Van Der Linden.
Director: Ed Hughes.
Designer/Associate director: Michael Vale.
Sound: Gurjit Dhinsa.
Lighting: Aideen Malone.
Composer: Julian Peralta.
Video: Alejandro Diez.
Choreographer: Leandro Palou, Romina Godoy.
Fight director: Philip D’Orleans.