Review: Romeo & Juliet

Two star-crossed lovers take their lives… and not even a mildly damp eye in the house.

Like a cup of coffee from a service station, this production of 'Romeo and Juliet' is decidedly lukewarm.

The cast
Have a quick perusal of on-line reviews and you will see that poor Jamie Doyle, fresh out of RADA, is saddled with most of the blame.  In my opinion, this is unfair – he strikes the right note between teenage angst and real passion and he deserves to be proud of this thoroughly respectable performance. 

It is Anjali Jay's affected, mannered interpretation of Juliet that I had more problems with; I found her performance lacked range and subtlety, with everything delivered speedily and squeakily. She "acts" whilst Doyle is real. Chemistry between the two is neglible – I've seen bigger sparks fail to light a match.

I've never thought that Romeo and Juliet was a play in which small parts could scene-steal, but Tim Lewis defiantly proves me wrong.

In the part of Peter, which barely registers upon a reading of the text, he generates humour with ease. Praise also for Alex Waldmann as the oft-overlooked Benvolio, creating an endearing and really quite lovely character.

The set
Design is most disappointing. The bleached wood balcony structure that pretty much entirely composes the spartan set looks like something that Changing Room's Handy Andy would be proud of, whilst the costumes are a curious mix of gherkins and jeans, codpieces and hoodies.

The conclusion
But the thing that this play lacks is spark - save for the excitingly choreographed fight scenes (complete with menacing music – a welcome change from the horrific pan-pipe CD that toots at us for any romantic moments) and Su Pollard's tender but dynamic Nurse. 

As a result it drags on to an oddly unmoving conclusion – well not so odd when you consider that you strip away practically all drama, tension and poignancy by hiding Juliet in an out-of-sight underground tomb. Likewise, is it too much to ask for Romeo to accompany, 'Thus with a kiss I die' with an actual kiss?!

This play never goes as far as being bad.  But it never ventures anywhere near very good territory either. I found it static and staid, despite the best efforts of a hard-working cast and a crew that strive to give us a 'no-frills' Shakespeare. 

Like that service station cup of coffee, it'll fill you up for now but given the ingredients (one of the most powerful scripts in Shakespeare, admittedly not to be found in coffee), you just know that something much more satisfying could have been produced.

Review by Rachel Read
BBC Nottingham
February 2006