Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews


Romeo and Juliet

Royal Shakespeare Company , New Theatre Cardiff , March-06-19
Romeo and Juliet by Royal Shakespeare Company The many ‘Juliets’ from Cardiff and wider afield in the audience may have been moved by this tragic story. But not very much by the telling of it.

Shakespeare does give us a lot of stabbing with swords and knives here, so the modern dress approach was very relevant. I also sort of liked the casting of a female actor in the role of Mercutio. Charlotte Josephine was one of the better performances of the evening. She did bring a good touch of magic to the opening of her Queen Mab speech but eventually she lost it with all her wriggling about. Overall the standard of the acting from this celebrated, iconic company was not very good. And some of the directorial touches questionable.

A number of lively young people in tracksuits run on to the stage. Each one delivers one of the lines of the Chorus’ speech, normally delivered by one actor. This spreading of the lines undermined the message that was being delivered so unless you knew the play it would have been difficult for the audience to absorb the facts

Two members of the Capulet gang (fighting on Romeo’s side) come on to the stage. They are soon followed by their enemies: two boys from the Montague lot. Knives are drawn and they fight. We miss the feisty street fight that usually opens the play. Eventually the message of the long-standing needle between the two parties squeezes it way through to us.

This performance is undermined by the general low quality of the acting and the failure of the director to introduce Shakespeare’s poignant beauty, which is very much needed to offset the tragic outcome of the story.

When we first see Karen Fishwick’s Juliet she has the delicate look we expect. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a Juliet with a Scottish accent, even though there is no one else about in Verona with a slight hint of one. But it’s the screeching that seriously undermines the verisimilitude.

Romeo looks a bit too old and scruffy for my taste but they both being to convince us as things get very difficult for these passionate young lovers. They get that bit right.

Ishia Bennison’s nurse does have a touch of genuine warmth but she played the part like an escapee from Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Bennison and Fishwick are acknowledged to be fine actors. I don’t know what went wrong here. It could be down to the direction of Erica Whyman.

She certainly over egged the death scene at the end of the play. The two dead lovers did look very moving and beautiful lying on top of a very large box at the centre of the back of the stage. It was a very adaptable open concrete looking piece, in keeping with the grim greys of the rest of the set.

I am sure the young students in the audience went away moved and enlightened by the experience
of seeing the play but as a piece of theatre art it fell well short.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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