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A CurtainUp London Review
Romeo and Juliet
Now in his fourth year of artistic directorship, Dominic Dromgoole could well be considered an old hand at managing the Globe's traditional auditorium. Nevertheless, he has chosen the theme of Young Hearts this year for what promises to be a refreshing season of youthful passion and tragedy. Opening with Romeo and Juliet, later offerings include Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It and Euripides' Helen translated by Frank McGuinness.
As demonstrated by the Globe's production of Othello in 2007, the theatre has a special aptitude to portray Shakespeare plays with clear-cut dialectics. With the more expansive style of acting and enunciated delivery necessitated by the open air stage, Globe productions enjoy a more unambiguous exposition of obvious oppositions and bilateral elements. Therefore, whilst the love and rivalry of Romeo and Juliet falls easily into cliché on any other stage, the unique quality of the Globe gives the extravagance of the young, doomed, love the space it needs to be itself.
Exploiting this, Dromgoole applies a simple formula with successful results: a pared down, largely unadorned production with an emphasis on zest and clarity. Benefitting from spot-on casting, this Romeo and Juliet has a fluid direction which masks its own input and makes it all seem effortlessly achieved. Meanwhile, the scenes are nicely interspersed by harmonious music, the bawdy humour is unashamedly brought out and there are some exhilaratingly paced fights.
The cast exemplify the balance between youthful energy and the classic staging. Adetomiwa Edun's Romeo is a delight: lively, charismatic and moving. Ellie Kendrick, last seen playing Anne Frank in a BBC film, could almost be the twelve year old Juliet described in the text. Gauche and green, she is believably an innocent falling headlong into first love although at times Kendrick struggled with the deeper emotions. Philip Cumbus' Mercutio was expertly full of dry humour, Jacques-style insight and the hot-headed spark which leads to his fatal anger. Ukweli Roach's Tybalt stalks the stage with menacing, lethal resolve whilst Maori actor Rwariri Paratene's Friar Lawrence imparts a Buddhist-style wisdom and Penny Layden's Nurse navigates the Shakespearean verbiage with affection.
The staging and costume, designed by Simon Daw, is traditional, but this is not to say without imagination or deliberate aim. Steering clear of sumptuousness for the sake only of expense or some sense of antique beauty, restraint and everyday Elizabethan lives are the hallmarks of this production's design. Whilst some servants' costumes seem decidedly drab, the dress overall is naturalistic rather than luxurious. Also, there is a clear feeling of Verona as a city, cleverly developing the public and civic themes of the play. Therefore, unobtrusive, unspeaking groups of citizens sit peeling baskets of vegetables or playing backgammon in the background.
Simple, clear and well-cast, this Romeo and Juliet has clearly had energy spent in exactly the right places. All the artistic input such as direction, design and music is sensitive to the text and nothing allowed to distract or detract, resulting in a production that is strong at its very core.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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