Sunday, 29 May 2016

Romeo & Juliet

Last week was a very busy one for me. After my trip to London on Thursday for the  Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories screening, I was back again on Saturday, for 2 shows, booked months ago.

The first of these was Romeo and Juliet, a production by the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company at the Garrick.

I booked it because Sir Derek Jacobi was appearing,and I will always show up to see him perform, given the chance. I was intrigued to learn he would be playing Mercutio, as of course, it's not a role with which one associates with a 77 year old man).

Mercution, Romeo and Benvolio
(Photo from Theatre website)
The Production is set in 1950s Italy, so the sets reference fascist  architecture, and the costumes are very much 'La Dolce Vita' : virtually monochrome and very stylish. Setting the play in this period, and this place, with undertones of Mafia corruption, and more that a little machismo, works well

Juliet is played by Lily James, (Downton Abbey's Lady Rose / War and Peace's Natasha Rostova), and Romeo by Richard Madden (Robb Stark in Game of Thrones) 

Juliet and Romeo
I was very impressed by James's performance as Juliet - she is entirely convincing as an emotional, intense teenager.

Madden I found a little disappointing, he didn't seem to project any passion, and unfortunately his diction was not always as clear as it could be, leading to some of the verse being lost. Friar Lawrence (Samuel Valentine) was a young man, a close friend of Romeo's, and his performance was excellent - his youth made the friendship, and Friar Lawrence's actions in assisting the young lovers entirely believable. 

Tybalt (Ansu Kabia) and Mercutio (Derek Jacobi)

Derek Jacobi's Mercutio is a high point in the show. He is wonderfully urbane, witty and more than a little camp, twirling his sword-stick and offering worldly advice and bon mots to his younger friends. His 'Queen Mab' speech was pitch-perfect, and his duel with Tybalt has an added poignancy, as he gives the impression, until the last moment, that he expects, as is his wont, to duel with words, not swords. 

In all, a good, but not great, production. I enjoyed it. (Although was somewhat irritated by the chap sitting behind me, and explaining the plot and characters in piercing whisper, to his children!)

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