If the words Shakespeare or Romeo and Juliet fill you full of dread and transport you back to dull English lessons; the RSC’s latest adaption of the classic tale will banish those painful memories once and for all. If you’re wondering why, it’s thanks to the director, Erica Whyman, who has put a modern and refreshing spin on things. (Think dubstep, humour and one of the most diverse casts you’ll see on stage.) If you’re a Shakespeare Puritan you might be in for a little shock! However, I’m certain that there was something for everyone in the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet at Norwich Theatre Royal last night.
As the curtain rose we were greeted with a simple set which had an industrial cube as the centrepiece. It felt like we were hanging out in a trendy loft with friends who were decked out in All Saints clothes; not on the fair streets of Verona. Yet somehow, this supremely modern first impression blended so well with old Shakespearean language pouring out of the actors’ mouths. It was like Shakespeare had an edgy makeover!
Makeovers aside, when there’s a stripped back and simple set you know you’re in for an evening packed full of incredible acting. This was mostly the case last night. Romeo (Bally Gill) and Juliet’s (Karen Fishwick) performances were absolutely outstanding.
Juliet was by far the star of the show, her emotional range and sheer grit were absolutely phenomenal. In moments of happiness, I wanted to jump for joy with her, in moments of despair I wanted to comfort her and I couldn’t help but get a warm and fuzzy feeling, as I watched her fall in love for the first time. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
The chemistry between Romeo and Juliet felt real and oh so magical – when they were on stage together they just clicked and worked in perfect harmony. When Juliet was out of the picture Romeo was absolutely hilarious. He moved seamlessly from a slightly cocky testosterone filled teenager, to a romantic dreamer with a heart of pure gold.
Romeo wasn’t the only one who had us in stitches though. The loveable northern nurse (Ishia Bennison) was like your favourite Aunt at a party – loving but inappropriately funny! Scandalously, Mercutio, played by Charlotte Josephine, was a cocky and bolshy as hell female. *Gasp*
Yes, there were some half-hearted performances from a few characters but overall, it was a fantastic evening of acting.
After being drawn in by the first half (which admittedly felt really long) I couldn’t help but wish for a huge plot twist in the second act. My wish may not have been granted, but I was treated to a gut-wrenching, haunting and moving finale; where the beauty of the simple set, sheer talent of the actors, the atmospheric music and lighting all came together to create pure magic. Watching the blood-covered bodies of Tybalt and Mercutio wander around the Capulet tomb as Romeo died and Juliet awoke sent shivers down my spine.
You can never tire of watching Juliet and her Romeo. (I should know, I had already seen a live broadcast of this last year!) This latest iteration really does inspire a whole new generation of theatre-goers and students studying Shakespeare. I witnessed this first hand in the ladies in the interval, where a group of teenage girls were having a heated debate about the first half. If that’s not how you know that you’ve done a good job, then I don’t know what is!
These tickets were kindly given to me for the purpose of review.