Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

An imbalanced production

Romeo and Juliet

Wales Theatre Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , October-23-08
Romeo and Juliet by Wales Theatre Company Before attending the performance I read a September review from the Guardian about this production, which awarded one star out of five. This may seem a little harsh, although the lack of conviction in Jack Ryder’s performance as Romeo would have drawn criticism from the most sympathetic observer.

At the relatively large arts centre theatre there were few empty seats. As the audience spilled in there was an understated air of anticipation at the prospect of new production of the popular Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet by Michael Bogdanov. Although the play is often subjected to modernisation, making fashion and concept almost the norm, this adventurous new production received a reception at the final curtain that would be best described as polite.

It is worth mentioning the set. The stage itself was sparse, but with a projected backdrop of scenes of Verona (majestic buildings, rustic street dwellings) that gave an impression of greater space. The performance of Sara Lloyd Gregory as Juliet was memorable, full of energy, and showed the actress’s maturity in the way that she portrayed naivety and distress. This is particularly encouraging given the actress’s youth, and one hopes that as her voice matures her performances will gain power.

The Nurse, played by Caroline Pritchard delivered her lines in broad Welsh accent which sat pleasingly with the dialogue, giving it a genuine, colloquial feel. This put the audience more at ease with the affection with which her character is imbued. Russell Gomer aptly projected the looseness of Mercutio, playing him as a lairy, bar-brawling swathe of double-entendres. The performance was reminiscent of that of a pantomime actor, and brought comic relief in light vulgarity. The audience reacted most warmly to this.

Sadly, I will remember this comic or farcical aspect of the play more fondly than the performance of the leading man. Popularity precedes Jack Ryder, a well established TV actor but by no means established as a Shakespearean. His voice at times lacked conviction, and aggression was certainly his strong point, but not the tears and heartache which are surely unalterable facets of the love-torn Romeo. His words occasionally came across as those of a self-conscious student reading lines from a page. This made the play’s conclusion particularly ineffective, with Ryder’s flat performance marring the tragic ending, leaving the audience lacking sympathy for the lovers.

This spoiled the balance that Bogdanov was perhaps aiming for between comedy and the tragic love affair, as the serious aspects were weakly performed. This was perhaps most evident in the scene during with Romeo and Juliet become enamoured with each other, but it is barely noticeable among the cheer and festivities of the Capulets’ party. This is realistic perhaps, but this is a play about the Western world’s most famous lovers, not to be undermined by gratuity. Regrettably, this imbalance is representative of what was amiss with this performance.

Reviewed by: Michelle Zacharias

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