Under pulsating strobe lights, repeatedly illuminating the exposed metal of an urban stage, Romeo and Juliet
The RSC’s production is infused with youthful zeal, epitomised by Mercutio (Charlotte Josephine), a whirling dervish of an actor. The result drives the play forward, keeps us entertained and constantly reminds us of that oft-overlooked fact: these characters are children. This sits well with the comedy of the play. Slapstick is what the doctor ordered and the Nurse (Ishia Bennison) delivers it in spades, her light-hearted self-indulgence usually hitting the mark. Karen Fishwick, playing Juliet, gives a strong performance, perfectly balancing youthful confidence with teenage self-doubt – a really believable performance matched only by Gill’s.
By transposing the play into the modern era, and successfully bringing its youth to life, the play has a good foundation from which to build. Sadly it never gets beyond this. In a week that has seen four fatal stabbings in London, the platform is set to either pass comment or terrify the audience with the scenario’s relevance. It never grasps the nettle however, preferring to lessen the blow with oddly archaic scabbarding and fight scenes that would be more at home on Strictly than the streets. This is highlighted by the incongruous decision to play the Apothecary as a homeless woman with access to poison, where a street dealer would have made better sense.
Putting aside perhaps my disappointment that the play did not evolve into something more cutting, there are a number of other aspects where Romeo and Juliet is genuinely lacking. Capulet is played by Michael Hodgson in the most baffling, not to mention stilted, way – careering round the stage set either to ‘shouty’ or ‘particularly shouty’. The prologue and epilogue both feel forced, but the ultimate sin is the sheer amount of time actors spend directing lines to the audience that are intended for each other.
After a promising and engaging first half, Whyman settles us