Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews


Romeo and Juliet

Wales Theatre Company , Swansea , October-03-08
Romeo and Juliet by Wales Theatre Company By far the strongest and most persuasive of Wales Theatre Company's Shakespearean offerings to date, this beguiling production stars ex-Eastenders actor Jack Ryder and Ammanford-born Sara Lloyd Gregory (fresh from her appearance in the BBC's Tess of the D'Urbervilles) in the title roles.

Having sat through countless productions of Romeo and Juliet over the years - both professional and amateur - I never cease to marvel at the bizarre lengths to which some directors go to make this timeless tale 'relevant' to a new generation of theatre-goers.

I have even had the misfortune to watch a university drama society production set on a council estate in which Juliet's nurse was transformed into a social worker.

Happily, there is no such nonsense here: artistic director Michael Bogdanov's raison d'etre is to spread the message that the works of the Bard can be easily understood by anyone, and with this one he has succeeded in presenting a superb piece of theatre without recourse to gimmickry.

True, this is a very contemporary treatment (the apothecary, for example, is portrayed here as a baseball-capped drug dealer with dreadlocks), but this in no way detracts from the power and majesty of the dialogue.

Wales Theatre Company's regulars - including Russell Gomer, Kath Dimery, Bill Bellamy and Ieuan Rhys - are joined not only by Christine Pritchard (who contributes a fabulously comic turn as the nurse) but also by a host of newcomers to the company, including Fluellen Theatre Company's Bethan Thomas, Grassroots regular Richard Tunley and a group of young performers from local performing arts schools and colleges.

Sean Crowley's set - dominated by a chess-board style floor - provides the perfect space upon which the cast can work their magic and bring the words to life.

Heartening to see that high quality theatre is alive and kicking in Wales, and that in the right hands Shakespearean dialogue can reach down the centuries and be readily understood by a modern audience.

Reviewed by: Graham Williams

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