Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Erica Whyman
Reviewer: Caitlin Scollin
Erica Whyman’s production of Romeo and Juliet gives a contemporary edge to the most famous love story ever told. Whyman gives William Shakespeare’s original text a sense of realism and humour, grounding the play in an environment much more familiar to the audience. This is reflected through a diverse cast which is much more evocative of today’s Britain, as well as raising a discussion about various other issues affecting modern society.
The setting is bleak, urban, thoroughly concrete and occasionally grim. Suitably, our star-crossed lovers meet by strobe-light on a dance floor. Romeo (Bally Gill) is played with an eternal charm and swagger, bringing a genuine and youthful sense of humour to the piece. He is joined by Karen Fishwick in the role of Juliet whom she plays with all the excitement of a girl in love for the first time. The two have a wonderful chemistry and the audience can easily believe that they are indeed in love. Their shared performance ranges from passionate to light-hearted to gritty in a matter of seconds.
Though when the play was first written it was intended for an all-male cast, Whyman has introduced female actors to several of the roles, including Mercutio and Escalus among others. This is also effective in modernising the play, truly reflecting society. These women are shown in the production to be complex and human, no less dynamic than the characters played by men. Mercutio, in particular, is sparking with energy throughout her performance. She is aggressively brilliant, bringing an element of life (ironically) to the piece. She appears invincible up until the moment of her duel with Tybalt. This scene reflects modern issues with knife crime in Britain, which the director has drawn on in efforts to make the piece relate more to the lives of young people today.
The production is revitalised for the modern day with sleek yet provocative design and moving, energetic acting from the cast. There is always something to appreciate onstage, with an abundance of choreography and sound, the fast-moving dialogue, and Whyman’s bold and innovative direction.
Runs until 23 March | Image: Topher McGrillis