Romeo & Juliet directed by Erica Whyman for RSC

It’s just over a fortnight since we went to see this play and I’ve been chewing over how I feel about it and not able to decide so this review might be a bit fractured and incoherent.

The first thing that I think has set me off-balance is that we went to see it on a Monday evening rather than out usual Saturday.  This completely changes the audience demographic from “people who go to the theatre” and weekend tourists to an audience mainly made up of school parties.

I think the audience make-up reminded me just how far away I am in age from the central characters and from remembering the intense pain and joy of first love; my life experience tells me that one tends to grow out of the person you fall in love with at sixteen as both of you mature and start looking for different things from life.  I don’t mean this to sound cynical, it’s just that this is how it was for me and most of my school friends.

I thought Erica Whyman’s take on the play worked; I can see the parallels with our modern society and increasing knife carrying and stabbings. I also liked the way some traditionally male parts were played by women…although the lady sitting next to me was tutting about it!

Of these I thought Beth Cordingly was excellent as Escalus.  When I saw she was playing the part I doubted she had the gravitas and authority to pull it off.  I am happy to eat my words and confirm she had both.

I liked the idea of Charlotte Josephine’s Mercutio although I think she needs clearer diction and to spit more venom into her “curse on both your houses” speech.

Both Lady Capulet and Lady Montague need to sharpen up their diction too.  It shouldn’t be difficult to hear what people are saying when you’re sitting in row B of the stalls.

I also think all four of the elder Capulets and Montagues need to show more antagonism and hatred to one another.  Their feud is, after all, the underlying raft of the main storyline.

Both Bally Gill, as Romeo, and Karen Fishwick, as Juliet, were excellent and believable as the star-crossed lovers.  The girls in the school parties were entranced by their scenes.  (The boys were equally interested in the macho-posturing fights of the earlier scenes.)

On the whole I liked the staging; clean and simple without too much getting in the way.  The cube that revolved to become different things worked well, with one exception.  The exception was when it was used as Juliet’s tomb.  At this point its place at the back of the stage made it difficult to see what was happening and it removed us, the audience, from the intimacy of the scene.

When I came out of the theatre I was pretty certain that I would never book tickets for a mid-week performance again.  On reflection I think I might; there was a different audience response from what we would normally see on a Saturday evening, it has made me think more and I think it was good for us to be shaken out of our comfortable Stratford routine.

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