“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

at The Courtyard Theatre, Tuesday 18th August 2010

One thing which puts Rupert Goold above many other directors in the game at the moment is his ability to mix music and sound into productions seamlessly, making sure they are justified and create dramatic tension. In this production of Romeo and Juliet, Goold incorporates many tableaux and movement pieces, but unlike Michael Boyd’s recent Antony and Cleopatra, they do not take away but in fact add to the words already on the page.

As most reviewers have commented, Goold incorporates a great deal of religious imagery and references in this production. Whilst this creates some striking visual images and allows for deep, rumbling music, this does not seem to be the main aspect which differentiates this Romeo and Juliet from others. What makes this special is the performances from Sam Troughton as Romeo and Mariah Gale as Juliet. Their roles have been seemingly subverted; the usual ‘innocent children’ interpretation has been swapped for one which makes the two leads far more rational. Their eyes do not meet on the dance floor, but Troughton makes a decision that Juliet is a girl who might just satisfy his lustful feelings.

Although it may sound odd that the word lust is being used in a review of Romeo and Juliet, it is this raw emotion that makes this production more special. The famous speeches are not spoken in earnest tones or whispered tongues, but frankly and openly. Troughton and Gale capture the essence of what it is to be a teenager perfectly, dressed in hoodies and tracksuit bottoms, trying to always get one up on their parents. This Romeo and this Juliet were not made for the doublet-clad world of their parents.

The rest of the company, dressed in Elizabethan attire, prove that ensemble work is definitely the way forward. Jonjo O’Neill is an erratic Mercutio, and Richard Katz brings a crazed tyranny to the role of Lord Capulet. Noma Dumezweni as the Nurse and Forbes Masson as Friar Lawrence both take control of the play with guts, guiding us through the twists and turns of the relationship between the two families.

Tom Scutt’s iron and stone set lends an ethereal air to the play, and the striking projections on the back wall allow us to move from emotion to emotion thoughtlessly. Light and sound by Howard Harrison and Adam Cork respectively brings the text viscerally into the 21st Century and choreography by Georgina Lamb gives the entire production energy and fire.

This is what we expect from Romeo and Juliet. Whilst there are aspects of this production which focus on love, it takes the opinion that Shakespeare wrote about passion in all forms, and how it causes us to act irrationally. The semi-coup-de-theatre at the end, as the heads of the two families enter in modern dress, suggesting a dream-world, shows that the action of the play could just as easily take place now as when it was first written. Goold’s Romeo and Juliet will not be forgotten in a hurry.

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