Romeo and Juliet

Sat 9th – Mon 11th February 2013

reviews

Patty McCabe

at 11:11 on 10th Feb 2013

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Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story in the English language. It is a tale where violence and passion erupt on the stage, consuming the two young lovers as they defy their warring families for the chance to be together. Castle Theatre Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet set in the grandeur of Durham Cathedral had set itself a mammoth task: to live up to its spectacular setting and reflect the intensity of emotion embedded in the fabric of the play. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that it lived up to this challenge.

Any student who can recall their matriculation ceremony in the Cathedral will be aware of the potential issues regarding the sound. At points the voices were too quiet at other points they were too loud and when characters without microphones faced away from the audience, their voices dissolved into little more than a whisper. Throughout the performance sporadic crackling through the speakers marred the delivery of lines, making it either impossible to hear or so unpleasant that you wish you could not hear them. Sound problems aside, Matt Dann’s (director) choice of the Cathedral was appropriate and whilst it obviously offers amazing opportunities, the limitations of the Cathedral as a setting should not be underestimated. Apart from the use of the pulpit as the balcony, the Cathedral actually offers very little which means an awful lot depends on clever manipulation of the setting and stage direction – neither of which were fully achieved.

On the whole, the cast were generally fairly strong and apart from a few line slippages, they were not at all flustered by the sound problems. Romeo (Dave Myers) was adequate if a little disappointing in parts. Romeo is a character who knows no moderation in emotion and I felt that Myers failed to capture this. Serena Gosling (Juliet) captured a girl on the brink of maturity and she accurately portrays the development of Juliet from a dove-eyed girl into a women who is fully aware of her passions though unable to control them. The balcony scene, if it was perhaps an unoriginal rendition, was both sincere and simple. It was a moment of calm and serenity in a play full of violence and turmoil and both actors captured this perfectly.

The standout performances came from Merctutio (Michael Forde) and Tybolt (Charlie Warner). Forde’s Mercutio was by far the best performance in the play. He perfectly captured layers to the character whose quick-witted remarks, though often hilarious, are laced with darkness and lunacy. Warner expressed Tybolt’s intensity and violence of character not only through his words but in his gait. His slow, purposeful movements turned this fairly small role into a dominating force on stage. The duel between the two was the high point of the performance with both characters fighting for dominion of the stage, completely overshadowing Myers and Burke (Benvolio). It was just a shame that both characters are dead by the second half. Also worthy of note were the Prince (Xander Drury), Capulet (Tom McNulty) and the Nurse (Georgie Franklin).

Whilst there were some bursts of brilliance in this performance, on the whole I would have to say it was mediocre and even a little limp in places – a cardinal sin in a play full of such emotional ferocity. I think that the main problem I had with this production was that if failed to live up to its potential. Romeo and Juliet is at once so well-known and poorly known. Everyone thinks that they know the story of the ‘star crossed’ lovers and every one can utter their favourite lines from the balcony scene and for most, this all the play is – an oft told tale with a few catch phrases. I had hoped that CTC’s production would remind us that there was more to the story. Instead of being confronted by the intensity of human emotions ravaging two confused and bewildered adolescents I was left feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

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