By Joseph Kerr
Thursday, February 21, 2013
ROMEO and Juliet played at the Barn Theatre, in Welwyn Garden City. Joseph Kerr reviews the theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s tragic love story.
NO ONE would call this a traditional production of Romeo and Juliet.
But I was relieved to find that co-directors Laura Eddy and John Keogh had stayed close to the original feeling and intention of the play, resisting, thank heavens, the temptation to set it in downtown Chicago or Nazi Germany, where two of the more tiresome productions of Shakespeare’s plays I’ve seen in recent years have been set.
It’s clear that a lot of inventive thought has gone into it, with a visually striking set and a stunning array of costumes, especially in the ball scene, which while mainly modern in feel had a highly individual, fancy dress party slant to them.
Beyond a certain amount of abridgement, there’s little tinkering with the text, but quite a few novelties in the action, such as Juliet’s mother slapping Count Paris in her grief after discovering her daughter’s supposed death.
The performance fairly fizzed along, never a moment’s pause between scenes, with immensely energetic acting from all concerned, and some superbly managed crowd and fight scenes.
The leading parts were played by Lewis Page and, on the night I was there, by Georgina Nicholas (Phillippa Lawford shares the role with Georgina, but I could only get to the theatre on the one occasion).
Lewis and Georgina were both entirely believable young lovers, and I particularly enjoyed the famous balcony scene, where the comedy was well brought out as well as the pathos.
With two dozen names on the cast list, I can’t possibly comment on every actor who took part, but I must give due praise among the supporting roles to a truly fine performance by David Maxwell as Lord Capulet; to Louise Wallace as a younger and much more elegant nurse than we’re used to seeing; Patrick Sunners, impressive and authoritative as the Prince and Chorus; Godfrey Marriott as Friar Lawrence; and promising Barn newcomer Ollie West as the playful Mercutio.
If you found Shakespeare boring when forced to read him round the classroom at school, you might well find this production changes your mind about him.
My one reservation it is that some of the lines suffered a bit from being shouted, but for the most part the extraordinary power of Shakespeare’s language came through.