Review – Romeo and Juliet

October 8, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✭✩   Keeping it real

"Scott Fletcher's constantly focussed Romeo and Stephanie McGregor's suddenly swooning Juliet make perfect sense... Photo © Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

“Scott Fletcher’s constantly focussed Romeo and Stephanie McGregor’s suddenly swooning Juliet make perfect sense… Photo © Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Summerhall
Tue 8 – Thurs 10 October 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Vibrant and driven, Bard in the Botanics’ Romeo and Juliet bursts and bounces about the stage in this touring production which is at Summerhall for three nights only.

Played out on a wood-framed playground swing that serves equally as well as a high-set balcony as it does an urban environment through which Romeo is led by his randy pals on their way to crash the Capulet’s party, this is a telling which goes straight to the nub of the tale.

More to the point the swing is a constant reminder of the youth of the protagonists. Teenagers of an age that you could see larking about of an evening in the playground of any city park. Although not necessarily one like this, (cleverly designed by Carys Hobbs), with floral tributes stuck into the railings behind the dustbin in the corner.

In this manner Scott Fletcher’s constantly focussed Romeo and Stephanie McGregor’s suddenly swooning Juliet make perfect sense as they play out the violent swings of emotion that dominate the plot. Director Gordon Barr has brought out all the energy and anguish of teenage love as this swoops furiously to its tragic conclusion.

They are easily backed up in this attention to  visceral detail by the remaining three members of the company. Luke McConnell’s Mercutio is an easy drinking lad, always on hand to take a joke several steps too far.

McConnell handles the Queen Mabb speech with remarkable skill, allowing its faerie references to work in easily, despite the contemporary setting, while Robert Elkin’s rather more laid back Benvolio digs into his packet of coke and snorts a line of the point of his knife.

If the menace of McConnell’s Mercutio lies in his unpredictability, Ross Mann brings a much tighter, controlling and bitter passion to Tybalt. The snub when the Montagues crash the Capulet party and he recognises Romeo carries easily through into later scenes as he seeks an imagined revenge.

A girl on the brink of her first affair

“Mercutio’s soul Is but a little way above our heads… Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.” Photo © Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

From the opening thumb-biting fight sequence right through to the rather more deadly meeting between Mercutio and Tybalt, even as Romeo is on his way home from his secret wedding to Juliet, the first half never lets the pressure drop.

Even the balcony scene is played out with a twitching sense of drive to it, thanks to Stephanie McGregor’s superb portrayal of Juliet. While Shakespeare’s lines give one kind of depth to her character, her every darting move and wide-eyed facial expression encapsulates a girl on the brink of her first affair.

This kind of doesn’t quite travel into the second half of the production, as the physicality of the performances falls away and volume takes over as an indicator of depth of emotion. At times, so much so as to make the lines incomprehensible.

With five actors there is a deal of doubling to give flesh to the bones of the plot. And one success of the production is the way this doesn’t get in the way. Ross Mann is particularly strong as Juliet’s Nurse – bringing a strong understanding to her confrontation with Mercutio as she seeks out Romeo, that only adds to the comedy.

Only Robert Elkin, who plays Friar Laurence as well as Benvolio, doesn’t create enough of a physical difference between his two characters. It doesn’t matter too much, although in the final minutes as the play snappily draws to its conclusion and slips from one scene to the next with barely a break, there are moments where it is confusing.

That aside – and one instance where the collapsing of the plot obscures a crucial piece of information – this is a full-blooded, entertaining telling of the play. Pete Searle’s lighting helps keep if focused, Joshua Payne’s sound design racks up the tension and Marc Silberschatz’ fight direction keeps it real.

Running time 2 hrs 15 mins
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL
Tuesday 8 – Thursday 10, 7.30pm, (Tuesday matinee 1.30pm)
Details on the Summerhall website: www.summerhall.co.uk

Tour concludes as East Kilbride Arts Centre (Box Office – 01355 261000)
Fri 11 October: 8pm.
Online booking – www.sllcboxoffice.co.uk

Bard in the Botanics website: www.bardinthebotanics.co.uk

ENDS

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