We'd had to wait a long while before we were able to schedule seeing this play, despite it originally being staged last spring/summer season (2010). But at last we got to see Rupert Goold's acclaimed direction of Romeo and Juliet.
I am rather fond of Goold: he directed the majestic 'Last Days of Judas Iscariot' and I'm particularly looking forward to his interpretation of The Merchant of Venice next month in Stratford.
It's a very striking staging, and the cast are excellent: Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale are wonderful as the young lovers, with Gale especially delightful in capturing the gauche angst of teenage passion. There is a fierceness to her reactions, her pleas, her impatience that captures youthful emotions very well. The dance sequence where Romeo first sees Juliet is especially well-handled as they move towards passion: pilgrimage indeed. And though in such ensemble works it always seems unfair to pick on particular actors, I'd like to especially praise Noma Dumezweni - again giving a storming performance as the Nurse to follow on from her intelligent work in other productions by the ensemble, especially in The Winter's Tale. I was sad to miss Forbes Masson as Friar Laurence, but Peter Peverley handled it wonderfully well in his absence as the foil to the Nurse.
And I have to make mention of this Mercutio, who offers bawd with extra bawdiness! Jonjo O'Neill, blond haired for extra Puckish frisson, revels in his extra-textual gestures and noises which have the audience wincing and giggling in suitably puerile blushes. Romeo clearly adores his friend, but like many friends in youth, his bawdy humour is at the edge of tolerable behaviour ---- and still we laugh and love Mercutio for it. One can well imagine there would have been much delight in a Shakespearean theatre at such a portrayal!
As ever, what can often be missed in compliments - costume, lighting etc - is much deserving of praise. The fights and dances are beautifully choreographed and the end of the pre-interval sequence, where the lighting lends a glow to the embracing lovers is truly magical. The juxtaposition of modern(ish) clothing for the outcast lovers, and 'period' dress for the other members of the cast is well done and is emphasised in the last sequence where the families, like all families, are bought to realisation of the deaths their feuding has led to. Indeed, this is a neat book-ending: at the start the transition from the prologue, seamlessly moves from a warning to turn off phones, to handing tourist 'Romeo' an audio guide which plays aloud the opening well-known lines. And at the end, a similar move is made as Balthasar looks over the devastation that one mislaid letter causes in the midst of a family feud. It's a nice directorial use of the costuming.
Beautiful. Worth seeing if you have not had chance already: and on until 2 April 2011.
Oh, and if you sit in the front row, beware: you may get your picture taken and be the subject of discussion in the play. Just warning you.
Guardian (spring 2010 version)
Guardian (winter at the Roundhouse)