Fringe Box



‘Romeo & Juliet’ – Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 22 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 8 Mar, 2012

by the Stage Dragon

Catrin Stewart and Daniel Boyd as Juliet and Romeo

Robert Icke’s production remarkably manages to breathe fresh air into Shakespeare’s play, exposing some of the “model” romance’s home truths. The ensemble speaks the text with a blissful, exciting irreverence, that undercuts the text’s usual sweet myth of romance; whilst the production literally ticks away the time-bomb of the play’s Classical tragic urgency.

Daniel Boyd (Romeo) and Catrin Stewart (Juliet) deliver their dialogue as if it were written for them, as genuine teenage lovers, who have only just hooked-up at some party-or-other. Danny Kirrane (Benvolio) provides a wonderful window into the tonal world to this play, acting with a natural, immersive comedy. And Brigid Zengeni (Nurse) also excels in highlighting a surrogate love for Juliet, as Juliet’s former wet-nurse.

What this production perhaps lacks is a sense of genuine danger amidst Verona’s gang feud. Whilst time is explicitly against them, their world does not seem hostile enough. And, where Juliet’s pre-wedding-night exuberance is cinematically juxtaposed with Romeo’s visit to the Friar, the little symbolic gain is far outweighed by the loss of two stand-alone set-pieces.

Juliet with her nurse (Brigid Zengeni)

For the most part, Icke avoids elements that have fast become clichés of the Headlong brand; with the exception of one, unwarranted video segment regarding Juliet’s faked death. And the contemporary action is often drawn from close analogy to the spirit of Shakespeare’s text. Friar Laurence (played by David Coates) here delivers his horticultural musings in the form of an academic lecture: modernised Shakespeare at its best.

Much of the textual cutting is done judiciously. We lose the opening chorus; there is no room for some of the more obscure Renaissance wit wordplay; Paris is not allowed his clumsy fight with Romeo; and, we don’t have to worry about Romeo’s mum quietly dying from crying.

Fate is also highlighted: some scenes being presented in “what if” scenarios, before showing the genuine outcome. We are given one alternate universe where Tybalt is seen to shrug-off what should be Romeo’s hateful proposition that they could share a common respect. Although innovative, in playing such scenes, the integrity of the play’s predestined, inescapable tragedy implodes.

For many amongst the sizeable school-party in the audience (who generally whooped and guffawed at appropriate/requisite moments), this may have been their first experience of Shakespeare, and this production – above all – was a strong endorsement for the Bard. If only all schools could see this…

Performances Tue 21 Feb – Sat 25 Feb

Click here to visit Yvonne Arnaud website Tel 01483 440000

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