Sunday, 30 April 2017

Review Romeo and Juliet

Romeo And Juliet
by William Shakespeare

Verona In Voodooland

They've gone down the rabbit hole in Verona and emerged in a dystopia where, it seems, friends are the new family. And the families are feuding.  For it's as if the flatmates have become family and Verona has become the new dressing-up and party capital.

The inhabitants of Verona are like bored Big Brother contestants who strive to have fun in their family units. The Prince (Paul Rider) is the disembodied TV voice dispensing justice. So Juliet (Kirsty Bushell) is a world-weary modern spinster, way past her teenage years but not ready to play the maiden aunt.

Romeo (Edward Hogg) is maybe younger, Bip The Clown with words, even to the point of presenting a single flower at one point but also part of the grunge generation.

Soutra Gilmour's set design is minimal, black netting above, a patch of bright green grass at the front of the stage. The props, clown make up, furniture and music further maketh the concept. Verona has become a kidult's playground - the prologue comes through a loudspeaker with a chorus of kids' voices echoing the adult.

This is also a production that has everything thrown at it and some of it sticks. But some of it just wanted to make TLT and her automotive sidekick roll their eyes and headlights in that middle class way of theirs and toot out, "Oh, reeeeally?!!!!"

Now we're all for having our bourgeois expectations shaken up. However when a newcomer to Romeo and Juliet might well believe, having seen this show, that the lovers don't die and that the tragedy is an out-of-this-world episode of Dr Who - well, to mix our metaphors in the same way, Houston, we have a problem.

On the other hand, there's some value of the concept of an older Juliet and Romeo eternally stuck in pretend student mode before meeting each other and experiencing something real amidst the chaos.

Blythe Duff makes a distinctive Scottish nurse in white face war paint - part Elizabethan Queen and part 18th century duchess gone to seed.

The relationship between Romeo and the female Mercutio (Golda Rosheuvel) and Mercutio with a credulous Benvolio (Jonathan Livingstone) in a Goth daisy chain of family connections gives a certain backbone to the household. Romeo's verse speaking still had a clear lyrical quality which broke through the kerfuffle around him.

But this was a hard-working production trying to do what? The story (has director Daniel Kramer never read Robert McKee. dahlink? ;)) is lost in the gimmickry.

A chorus of Village People's YMCA while dressed in a dinosaur costume? Tick! A piebald faced. chained actor (Ricky Champ) bounding on as the dog of Capulet (Gareth Snook)? Tick! Lady Capulet (Martina Laird) like a tottering black-robed Alice In Wonderland character with a glass of whisky in hand? Tick!  Lots of screeching and screaming and kicking of Doc Martens? Tick!

It's certainly once more unto the the breach - if it weren't marketed as Romeo and Juliet but a play about a process with its cutting and splicing and editing, we might have felt more sympathetic.

But, while we think we understand some of the reasoning behind this rendition of the play, (this is the serious bit) it also seems to take away the very reason for watching a play by William Shakespeare. The love, violence and death is not felt but laughed at. That is the breach with the play and its language.

And, most egregious of all, it felt too long. The schoolkids around us gasped at times and giggled, but  were also bemused - maybe as to whether this was story they had studied. It seemed to make them unsure and uneasy, but not, we think, in a good way.

Anyway, enough of our possible projections on to the younger generation. We like good actors even in an ill-thought-through production but we give a red/amber light.

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