Although every cloud has a silver lining, the “opportunities” provided by the pandemic to deliver something new have largely been unsuccessful and left audiences cold and aching for “proper” theatre. Yet with her tight new digital production of Romeo and Juliet for Creation Theatre in partnership with Watford Palace Theatre, Natasha Rickman has achieved what I was beginning to think was impossible – an experience that is genuinely theatrical and yet takes full advantage of online presentation. If you have ever wished it was possible to watch – closely – everyone on stage at the same time, you will be delighted by the way Rickman conjures her characters and the settings and incidents of the play – at times hinting that the work of Ingmar Bergman and Nicolas Roeg has been an influence, but creating something unique and really very special.
The first half is presented almost entirely on Zoom © and watched ‘full screen’ is very effective, especially the psychedelia of the Capulets’ “house” party, and the cast are uniformly excellent with standout performances from Annabelle Terry (Juliet) and Harmony Rose Bremner (Benvolio); among the smaller roles, Katy Stephens (Nurse) and Dharmesh Patel (Mercutio) are especially impressive. Kofi Dennis makes a likeable Romeo, convincingly softening once he has met his “star-crossed-lover”; and Clare Humphrey brings power and grace to the re-gendered role of Sister Lauren.
Inevitably the script has been cut – coming in around two hours – and, audaciously, Rickman has incorporated lines from other plays – it would spoil the fun to say where and why she has done this but the effect is startling and the concept fresh and imaginative. Structurally, the production is also innovative with audience members given opportunities to make choices and pursue side stories. Though well integrated into the story, these add little and, particularly in the second half, disrupt the rhythm of the show; if, as seems likely, all led to the same ending, the effort might not be worth the candle. In this sparkling, swift-moving production, Natasha Rickman finds new depth and resonance in this old, old story. Highly recommended.
Review by Louis Mazzini
ROMEO – KOFI DENNIS
JULIET – ANNABELLE TERRY
CAPULET – GRAEME ROSE
LADY CAPULET – VERA CHOK
NURSE – KATY STEPHENS
TYBALT – SEBASTIAN CAPITAN VIVEROS
LADY MONTAGUE – VISS ELLIOT SAFAVI
BENVOLIO – HARMONY ROSE BREMNER
MERCUTIO – DHARMESH PATEL
SISTER JOAN/PETRA – LOLA BOULTER
SISTER LAUREN – CLARE HUMPHREY
PRINCE – GILES STOAKLEY
PARIS – ANDY OWENS
DIRECTOR – NATASHA RICKMAN
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR – SIMON PITTMAN
SET AND COSTUME DESIGN – RYAN DAWSON LAIGHT
SOUND DESIGN – MATT EATON
VIDEO DESIGN – STU READ
STAGE MANAGER – JUDITH VOLK
PRODUCTION MANAGER – GILES STOAKLEY
PRODUCER: CHARLIE MORLEY
Dates: Runs 12 – 23 May (Wed – Sun). Total of 10 shows performed live on Zoom.
Time: GMT: 7.30pm
Booking Link: https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/romeo-juliet/
Standard price: £20 per device
Running Time: 70 mins
Box Office: 01865 766266 or online at www.creationtheatre.co.uk