Romeo and Juliet ****


Royal Shakespeare Company at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Tuesday 28th November – Saturday 1st November 2008

The story of Romeo and Juliet is so embedded in our culture, as so much of the love and hate that is portrayed in theatre, music, novels, films, etc comes from Shakespeare’s play about the two young lovers. We owe it so much, yet few productions live up to the debt we owe this play. Director Neil Bartlett takes on a mammoth task in the RSC recent production of Romeo and Juliet. Even though we have come to expect a very high standard from the RSC, it must be difficult to give a new life to this piece of theatre, which has so many associations with the world outside the play – from musicals, ballets, pop to art.

Bartlett’s production returns the play to its routes of love and hate, and the inherent link between them, setting the action back in Verona in the 1940s era. The story fits naturally in this time, which is associated with strong family connections, violence, purity, religious importance and a certain romantic feel. This is demonstrated by the superb costumes, lighting, the change from swords to flick-knifes for the gang fighting and live big-band style music which recurs throughout the production. Aesthetically, this production was very impressive, with the large cast looking almost cinematic at times. However, there were a few design flaws. An overly large, clunky monastery is brought forward for the last scene – although there is no balcony for the balcony scene. Clearly they wanted to do something different with this scene, but the outcome was that we lost the feeling of distance between the lovers. Perhaps the set would be better suited to the RSC’s own Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where it is due to run over the festive period, after touring the UK.

The production includes beautiful, Glaswegian, recent RSAMD graduate, actress Anneika Rose, as the feisty but sweet Juliet. Anneika Rose was seen earlier in the year at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, playing Agnes in Liz Lochhead new play (based on Moliere’s L’Ecole) Educating Agnes. In that production, she gave a memorable performance and has come at no surprise that she is now set to make a splash in England with her Juliet performance. Starring opposite her is David Dawson, as Romeo.  In the first act, together they look like a very naive young couple and could be accused of reducing the greatest love story to that of teenage crushes. Yet, by the second act, the devastating and smart performance of Dawson transfers his Romeo into a truly moving character that seems to justify all the actions of the play.

Bartlett’s production is something truly special and deserves all the praise it receives. Currently ending its tour in The Theatre Royal in Norwich to the 22nd November and opening in Stratford-upon-Avon on the 28th November until the 24th January 2009.



One Response to “Romeo and Juliet ****”

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