Review: Romeo & Juliet

In touring theatre, you can't go far wrong with Romeo and Juliet. Many school groups were in evidence and at the end they cheered rapturously. But, in truth, Birmingham Rep's production directed by Bill Bryden is a pretty featureless affair. The actors are set adrift on Hayden Griffin's bare wooden set, which leaves them little option but to stand around artfully. Costumes are strangely eclectic - jeans cut to look like Elizabethan hose are clever enough, but to what end? The sound effects are dreadfully clichéd: claps of thunder; tolling bells; ravens cawing to send us into the interval with a sense of foreboding (the kids laughed at this - I didn't blame them). And the whole thing was topped and tailed by the sort of cheesy muzak you might hear in a cheap Italian restaurant. 

Not helped by their environment, the cast turned in competent performances, led by Jamie Doyle as an endearing and impassioned Romeo, Gus Gallagher as a sardonic, bawdy Mercutio and Su Pollard's Nurse. Anjali Jay tried perhaps a little too hard with Juliet, while Gerald Harper, as Friar Laurence, tried for solemnity but ended up with monotone. The play wasn't much harmed, save perhaps by the decision to deliver the voice of the Prince through the theatre's PA system, like an invisible, omniscient god. Shakespeare is robust, and as long as his marvellous lines are delivered competently, he still has the power to thrill the next generation.

Review by Susan Mansfield
The Scotsman
March 2006