Romeo and Juliet at the Brockley Jack Theatre
The boundless pool of rich Shakespearean entertainment has been explored again by CandleFire theatre company. A tiny, black room is sparsely decorated with some vines, a wooden table and a few expertly positioned spotlights, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Adapted by Joshua Jewkes and directed by Jaclyn Bradley, this production of Romeo and Juliet is a concentrated, heady shot of Shakespearean tragedy. Jewkes and Bradley have focused on the tension created by the Capulet/Montague feud, emphasising the communal aspect of the tragedy over an exclusively romantic version. The effect is a diverse range of tones, moods and action in a small space of time, shooting out the play in bursts of electricity.
There is a lot of skillfully choreographed fighting that looks brutishly painful, even in such an intimate space, and there is less moping from the lovers, which wouldn’t have come off nearly as thrillingly on this low budget. Characters are well sustained from the original, but the script and cast are reduced and inflected with modern attitudes and quips. This makes for a lot of fun during the cheekier parts of the play, and allows characters such as Balthasar (played by Jewkes) and Benvolio to have a livelier, endearing presence. Jewkes displays spectacular athleticism and proficiency in his body language, to great comic effect, while Martin Sales’ Benvolio is deeply commanding, controlling the tone of the atmosphere with a flick of his eye or inflection of his voice. Turan Duncan’s Mercutio is every bit as stormy and detached as he should be, and Robert Fellman gives a remarkably smooth performance as Romeo, with floods of modern charm and cheek.
In opposition to the well-rounded performances of the Montagues, Marie Isserman’s Juliet is a little too earnest and rigid for entertainment’s sake. Her slightly awkward presence seems to be down to an absence of connection and direction. Nurse’s character is also limited and lacking in essential warmth
Nonetheless, collectively, the cast and creatives have constructed a small, unique world, built on Shakespeare, that intrigues, moves, excites and charms. With spectacular performances from some of the cast, it’s well worth a view.
Romeo and Juliet is on at the Brockley Jack Studio until 1st August 2015, for further information or to book visit here.