ROMEO & JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 5 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 23, 26 Feb 2pm Schools’ Mat 8, 10, Feb, 1 March 1.30pm.
Audio-described 17 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 10 Feb.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 February.
Fresh, rapid and clear.
In his latest, modern dress, tactfully-pruned Shakespeare, director David Thacker contrasts youthful energy with the drag of the older generation. Grey-suited Capulet seems less concerned with the family feud than his daughter’s objections to his plans for her. Juliet’s Nurse feels free to tell anyone her views, while Lady Capulet acquiesces in the cosmetic glamour of an alcoholic middle-age.
Outside, Friar Lawrence is more chemist than herbalist; more than either he’s a vehement moraliser while it’s hard to imagine Russell Richardson’s fraught Montague revels in feuding.
About the only warmth in this production comes from the surges of Rodrigo’s famous guitar concerto (Spanish rather than Italian). Ruari Murchison’s bare, in-the-round stage is glossily black, Juliet’s high balcony (later entrance to her tomb) a bare board.
In this place of night and action, gleaming with its own darkness, youthful passions are flung around the stage by the kind of mix any teenage group might offer: lively Benvolio (Lloyd Gorman, every open gesture a call to be sensible); the acknowledged wit in Kieran Hill’s Mercutio, giving clarity to the often-generalised Queen Mab speech, then facing a quick death after a long fight – and the inexorably furious, in Jake Norton’s Tybalt, a short beard fringing his angry features.
But it’s the lovers themselves who are aptly the heart of this fast-paced, clear production. The distance between the generations becomes physical as Juliet lies dead centre, her elders rushing around behind the audience preparing for her wedding. And if the pace reduces some of the poetic complexity of feeling, it gives the central pair a vivid immediacy that runs deeper than Romeo’s casual clothes or Juliet’s jeans and top.
Jade Anouka is both girl and teenager, someone reaching on tiptoe and with clutching hands for the new life she feels, exploring the verse with the excitement of childhood dawning into adolescence. And David Ricardo-Pearce’s Romeo engages with others, an intelligent rather than callow young person. No wonder Thacker gives them the prologue and, after a death all the sadder for ending as Juliet stirs to find her lover’s body, the epilogue to their story.
Juliet: Jade Anouka.
Gregory/Paris: Tobias Beer.
Nurse: Michelle Collins.
Sampson/Friar Lawrence: Colin Connor.
Capulet: Rob Edwards.
Benvolio: Lloyd Gorman.
Prince/Mercutio: Kieran Hill.
Lady Capulet: Paula Jennings.
Tybalt/Apothecary: Jake Norton.
Romeo: David Ricardo-Pearce.
Montague/Friar John/Servant/Waiter: Russell Richardson.
Peter Balthazar: Simeon Truby.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer/Musical Director: Carol Sloman.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Elizabeth Newman.