Romeo and Juliet is the first of eight plays being performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company over a ten week run at the Roundhouse in Camden, and if this opening production is anything to go by, it looks set to be an outstanding season.
Rupert Goold’s production was a thoroughly gripping and exceptionally well-acted piece of theatre, which reached the high standards one would expect from the RSC. To my delight, it first appeared to be in traditional Shakespearian dress, but then Romeo appeared in corduroys and a hoodie, and Juliet in a simple dress and Converse trainers. Although this obvious distinction of the title roles could have been jarring, it somehow did not matter, and by the end of the (very long) first half, it had actually become quite fitting. It appeared that the lovers were stuck in a society which needed to be liberated and brought (as the company so aptly do with Shakespeare’s works) into the 21st Century.
Although the first half was very long (almost two hours), its climax was spine-tingling. Sam Troughton’s Romeo was honest, passionate and perfectly spoken, and Mariah Gale’s Juliet was sassy and yet tender. Jonjo O’Neill gave a bold, stand-out performance as a wickedly funny Mercutio and special mention ought also go to Forbes Masson for a truthful and heartfelt performance as Friar Laurence. Although Gale sometimes verged on portraying a stroppy, over-emotional teenager (almost undermining the intensity of the love, and the plot), the strength with which she played the emotional scenes made her Juliet all the more believable.
Overall, this was a first class production, which effortlessly incorporated live music, choreography, special effects, moving sets, fight scenes and, most importantly, consistently passionate acting throughout. All this put together made a dark, sexy, thrilling production which opens the RSC’s London Season with a resounding “Wow”.
A limited number of £5 tickets are available for 16-25 year-olds on the door each night, and even if you don’t manage to get these, it is well worth a watch. Other shows to be performed in the London Season include Anthony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, King Lear, Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors. The Shakespeare Season is followed by a season of New Writing, performed by the same ensemble at the Hampstead Theatre. For more information visit: www.rsc.org.uk/london