Romeo and Juliet
Reviewed by Jamie Chapman Dixon
When I first heard that there would be a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet being performed at Upstairs at the Gatehouse I was excited to see it. I was slightly dubious about the fact that they set it in the 1960’s but I entered the theatre with an open mind. The show began quite nicely with 2 young rockers sitting on deck chairs discussing the feuds between the Montagues and the Capulets. You could instantly realise they had set the show in Brighton as they had the pier (which subsequently didn’t get used throughout) and a giant B on the side of the stage. This slightly confused me as one of the first lines in Romeo and Juliet is “in fair Verona, where we set our scene” so it didn’t make to much sense that we were now in Brighton.
As the show progressed we started being introduced to the key characters of the show. The Capulets were Rockers and the Montagues were Mods. It’s a nice idea but was done slightly half heatedly with both styles getting lost when Juliet was introduced. Juliet played by Maya Thomas looked aesthetically pleasing as the young Juliet but was covered in tattoos. With the era the director has set the production in Juliet could happily have many tattoos covering her body but instead of making them part of the character there was a failed attempt to hide them under high necked t shirts and dark tights. The portrayal of the Nurse as a slightly horny mistress really didn’t work and slightly scared me as I believe a nurse should be that kind devoting woman with a slight attitude at times but not trying to get in all the young lads jock straps.
I was surprised at the fact that my favourite characters were Alexander Neal as Mercutio (who reminded me of a young Robert Downy Jr, which was slightly distracting) and Robert Durbin as Benvolio. Unfortunately for the audience Mercutio has to die at the end of Act 1 and I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at his comical demise.
As we followed the story into the second act the performance didn’t really get much better with Romeo seeing Juliet before he passes away. I’m not a fan of when company’s play it like this as we as an audience have a love/hate relationship with the fact that they were so close to a happy ending yet so far.
This is the first production I’ve seen of Romeo and Juliet where full on dance numbers have been put in. I have seen dance fighting versions and small one piece sequences but never as much as this. The dancing was awkward and under rehearsed at times with a confusing lyrical contemporary number after Juliet drinks the fake death producing potion. (Which an apparently dead Juliet joins in with).
As the curtain came down I realised that 90% of the scenes had been staged by every character in that scene walking onto centre stage waiting 2 seconds an then beginning the scene from there. For a show with such amazing writing as Romeo and Juliet to be done this way makes you feel like there is more options out there then the same old thing done every time.
It was a brave attempt at a classic Shakespeare play but I think that HIRAETH Artistic Productions need to go back to the drawing board.
Directed by Zoe Ford
Upstairs at the gatehouse
6th February – 2nd march 2013
2hr 45 minutes – 15 minute interval