Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Romeo and Juliet

Aberystwyth Arts Centre Youth theatre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , November-12-08
Romeo and Juliet by Aberystwyth Arts Centre Youth theatre Following the recent performance of 'Romeo and Juliet', the youth theatre wheels out this terms piece, Sharman McDonald's 'After Juliet'. This play might be said to pick up where 'Romeo and Juliet' finished, but there is more to it than that. With different characters in the mix, the original characters are differently portrayed and treated.

The show opens shortly after the death of Romeo (Montague) and Juliet (Capulet). The two families share an uneasy piece as ordered by the prince and the fate of the two star crossed lovers hangs over Verona like the heavy summer weather. The Capulet's will shortly elect a new prince of cats to succeed Tybalt and who is elected will decide the future of the two households: peace or war.

In the meanwhilst, Benvolio, Romeo's best friend, has fallen in love with Rosaline, formerly the object of Romeo's affections. Rosaline, gives a different view of Juliet, her spoiled elder cousin and is bitter that she is remembered by the city. She begins to edge the two houses back toward their old conflict. Such is the plot.

Perhaps to make sure the plot and characters make their own running, the set has been kept to a minimum. A set of stairs and a balcony toward the rear of the stage, a few hangings around the edges and that's about it. The whole lot is done in neutral greys, as a result of which the eye-catching costumes of the cast stand out well. 'Shades of Elizabethan'according to the production team and who can argue with that? Scenes are run together: one finishes, lights change, one of the cast hammers on a drum and the actors walk off, to make room for their colleagues.

The actors then. I have to admit to some early misgivings as the play got off to a slow start. Part of this is down to the plot: following the climatic ending to 'Romeo and Juliet' there must needs be an anticlimax at the beginning of this one. As the show picked up speed though, things fell into place, performance improved, the characters grew their extra dimensions and everything became more real. Choreography was done well, the Capulet's ball for example was memorable. Perhaps most impressive were the scenes without a dramatic imperative, where the family's hangers on have to make an everyday conversation seem interesting. That they managed is worthy of serious appreciation.

I came away impressed by the performance, if undecided about the play itself. Technically it was brilliant and what's more important it was performed with some enthusiasm, something sadly lacking in many 'professional' productions. As ever the youth theatres meagre resources were perhaps a factor: discourses on the merits of a dress that seemed little different to that worn by any other character springs to mind, but where acting was concerned there are few faults to find. There were a few moments that broke the spell and this being a first nigh there was the occasional fluffed line, but by the end of the show I would have had serious trouble marking down any one performance. Rosaline's monologue where she lays out her grudges against the world in general was particularly impressive.

As per usual for an ensemble production, I will not be picking out names to highlight: any one was as important as any other, when any single bad performance would have broken the spell of the play. Sufficive to say that I encourage everyone to go along to round studio and take a look. Between them Directors Harry Durnall and Sofia Ropek Hewson have delivered on their promise 'expect the unexpected'.

Reviewed by: Alex Gilbey

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