ROMEO & JULIET
by William Shakespeare.
Catstrand High Street New Galloway DG7 3BN 7 March 2015.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01644 420374.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 February at Brunton Theatre Musselburgh.
Botanical Shakespeare goes indoors for winter with some success.
How do you get Shakespeare to parts big productions don’t reach? One answer in Scotland is to tour productions by Bard in the Botanics – an alliteratively opportunistic but by many accounts dramatically valuable operation which performs summer seasons in Glasgow’s Kelvinside Botanical gardens.
Of course, it’s indoors for winter tours and I don’t recall from my few visits to the Botanics the park-like setting of a climbing ladder and swings, alongside a fenced corner with litter attached. It may well be there, but if not Carys Hobbs’ set is apt for a production that’s all about youth, and which might be simply adapted for that modern Scottish open-air classic, Douglas Maxwell’s Decky Does A Bronco.
Older characters are omitted or minimised. This reduces what we have to bear from William Shakespeare’s most tedious ‘comic’ character, Juliet’s Nurse (I imagine a particularly obnoxious, precocious boy actor creating the role). What’s left is a concise, rapid mix of teen emotions – from characters generally not far removed in years from the Glasgow children who’d use the swings and ladder.
It makes for a hormone-driven show, emphasising the contrasts between urgent love and impulsive hate, emotions that emerge – as emotions do in Shakespeare – suddenly, extremely, without explanation. Even Friar Laurence seems of a generation to talk to Romeo as younger brother rather than son – Robert Elkin doubles the role with Romeo’s fiery mate Mercutio, and gives even the Queen Mab speech a sparkle.
There’s only one limitation, but it’s crucial and comes with the verse-speaking. It isn’t lumpy or false, as can be the case. But it tends to lack point and style. And in the case of Stephanie McGregor’s Juliet – the stand-out part if the play’s to have any dynamic – sometimes barely audible from the further rows in a steep-banked but smallish theatre.
It’s a shame, because McGregor has youthful freshness and energy. Maybe the small acting space doesn’t help her create the character’s energy and resolution at moments of decision. It’s a demanding role, and she meets at least some of the demands in bringing the play to various smaller Scottish communities.
Benvolio/Capulet: Adam Donaldson.
Mercutio/Friar Laurence/Apothecary: Robert Elkin.
Julie/Lady Montague: Stephanie McGregor.
Tybalt/Nurse/Friar John: Ewan Petrie.
Romeo/Prince: Terence Rae.
Director: Gordon Barr.
Designer: Carys Hobbs.
Lighting: Pete Searle/Robbie Fraser.
Sound: Joshua Payne.
Fight director: Marc Silberschatz.
Associate fight director: EmmaClaire Brightlyn.