ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
The Open Air Regent’s Park Summer 2008
Romeo and Juliet by Lizzie Loveridge
Twelfth Night by Charlotte Loveridge
Romeo and Juliet
This Romeo and Juliet has a very Italian, almost Sicilian setting in 1950s dress and opens with a visually exciting choreographed introduction where the rivalry between the families is conveyed through expressive dance. The friars meet, one on an old fashioned bicycle with a handlebar basket full of herbs and share a thermos of tea, sitting in deck chairs. Ladies Capulet (Annette McLaughlin) and Montague (Jennifer Bryden) could have walked out of Audrey Hepburn inspired 1950s Vogue. Tybalt’s (Ben Joiner) suit is run through with a metallic thread. Throats are slit and there is plenty of real blood to remind us of the number of teenage deaths we are hearing about in modern day London. Capulet (Tim Woodward) physically abuses his wife, Juliet and the Nurse (Claire Benedict) in this male dominated society. The nurse wears a magnificently designed frock, the skirt decorated with large appliquéd sail boats. Lady Capulet seems to have a problem with alcohol and a manservant pulls her off the County Paris (Neet Mohan) as if she might have a predilection for younger men and leaves us with the feeling that her relationship with Tybalt might have been more than cousinly.
Nicholas Shaw and Laura Donnelly are very appealing as the lovers. One scene sees Friar Lawrence (Richard O’Callaghan) talking to Romeo interspersed with Juliet discussing is banishment with the Nurse. It is Friar Lawrence who takes charge as Romeo threatens to go to pieces. It is a lovely setting and a wood pigeon cooed all through a prettily lit dawn unbothered by the talk of larks. The classical house set has an open wooden stair and parapet for the balcony scene. But I shall remember this production for the beautiful movement work by the ensemble cast. The closing funeral scene is spectacular in black high fashion as the families come to terms with their rivalry and shared grief.
Twelfth NightThe Open Air’s beautiful setting, in the depths of Regent’s Park which feels far removed from the city in spite of being in its very heart, is perfect for this romantic comedy. Within the grand but crumbled red brick edifice, this Twelfth Night inhabits an elegant 1930s world of smoking jackets, long cigarette holders and jazz tunes.
With a keynote of clarity, this is an accessible production and could be enjoyed by those usually daunted by Shakespeare. For instance, Viola (Natasha Dew), before assuming her disguise, is treated to a walk-on tour of the main protagonists and scenes are overlapped to demonstrate the plot’s exposition.
Energetic as well as lucid, this is a passionately charged interpretation which really suits the Open Air’s space. Oscar Pearce’s excellently ardent Orsino, for example, displays angry capriciousness as he is wracked by his own self-indulgent romantic melodrama. At one point, he flings himself to the floor bawling his eyes out for Olivia (the gracefully poised Janie Dee) and at another, impetuously kisses Cesario before instantly withdrawing from an apparently homosexual embrace. With a nicely directly parallelism, Olivia’s own excessive grief is shown to mirror Orsino’s histrionics. However, Viola’s feistiness at times comes out as petulance and the high pitched emotional furore obscures some of the play’s tender melancholy and yearning poignancy.
Clive Rowe’s Feste emerges as the a musical star in this production. With a singing voice so good, the descent of an oversized disco glitter ball in one scene seems no less than an appropriate tribute to him. Playing Feste as a mime comedian of the era, his clowning is physical, exaggerated and permeates every spoken line, whilst his Sir Topaz impression mimics a gospel preacher. Although the audience appreciated his comedy, the exaggerated buffoonery loses some of Feste’s worldly-wise insights.
Ultimately, Twelfth Night is a fairly easy play to do well and this charming production succeeds in providing a comprehensible, fun evening, if somewhat thin on originality or heart-rending wistfulness.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.