Arts Review: Romeo and Juliet

Dir. Dominic Dromgoole and Tim Hoare, Theatre Royal, 4th – 8th August

The Globe Theatre’s touring production of Romeo and Juliet opens on a stark, black-curtained stage. Their wooden set is simple, two levels with beams, ladders and trapdoors which throughout the production act as balconies, tombs and comedic entrances. The cast burst on to stage with a multitude of marching-band instruments – enormous drums, flutes, trumpets, saxophones – and belt out a roaring tune, before the prologue is delivered interspersed with fighting between the warring Montagues and Capulets. The costumes are similarly minimal – cream slacks, white shirts and sailor tattoos for the men and white trousers or dresses for the women.

With the exception of those playing Romeo and Juliet, all actors change parts throughout the play, donning beautiful robes in bright reds and greens for noblemen and women, adding aprons or cassocks for servants and friars – a particular favourite is Sarah Higgins’ brash, funny Scots nurse.

Such a well-known and frequently performed play still feels fresh and exciting; the lewd and bawdy comedy remains immediate and funny, the drama no less enticing. Shakespeare’s Globe is known for putting on performances traditional in style to those of Shakespeare’s time, and while the costume may incorporate modern elements, the energy and inclusivity of the performance seems wonderfully faithful – the crowds in Shakespeare’s time included those from every strata of society, and thus the productions played to both the high-minded and the bawdy, and here it feels the same – the production is serious, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Much as we know the story, the tale of star crossed lovers is still deeply affecting. Samuel Valentine’s dramatic Romeo and Cassie Layton’s clever yet childish Juliet draw genuine engagement with their tragedy, and although we know the outcome well, the grief of the final scene is no less heart-breaking.

[Clare Patterson – @clurrpatterson]

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