Romeo and Juliet at the Rose Playhouse
Romeo and Juliet is a story of highs and lows: scenes of beautiful romance plummet into violent slaughter. It can often be a case of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. The play can be Shakespeare at his best or risks being more comic than tragic. This production is by no means comic, but at times over-the-top acting risks undermining the seriousness of the tragedy. There is physical chemistry between the star-crossed lovers but their words do not flow into each other as the Bard had intended. Rhiannon Sommers is a pragmatic and at times cynical Juliet, with her cropped hair she seems to be a woman of our times. Her Juliet would have worked if Romeo was not played as a naïve and bellicose “lad”. Again, there is nothing incorrect in this presentation of the hero who, at times, is utterly selfish and annoying. But how could such a reasonable Juliet love and die for this hapless lover?
The Rose Playhouse is an exceptional space and is used well. Tents are scattered in the cavernous backdrop, lit by red and blue lights, recreating a modern refugee camp. An interesting idea, which is under-developed – it was more the case of Shakespeare’s text being spoken with a modern setting in the background. Significant characters have their sex altered; Benvolio and the Friar are performed by women. Esther Shanson gives life to Juliet’s mother, who is a selfie stick brandishing yummy mummy, asking members of the audience if they need more drinks or food during the party. Niall Ransome is a witty Mercutio and probably steals the show.
The play is a human tragedy. At points this production seems to ignore the humanity beneath the language. There is too much spitting, sprinting and shouting, which only pricks at the heart. Had the refugee setting been developed this tale of woe that transcends time would yet again have proved its durability.
Romeo and Juliet is at the Rose Playhouse from 15th November until 10th December 2016, for further information or to book visit here.