Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Review by Richard Edmonds, The Birmingham Post, 13 April 2004
When the RSC takes on Shakespeares' greatest tragedy, expectations are not always fulfilled. I still remember clearly a Mafiosa Verona, all Gucci suits and dark shades with the Nurse arriving on a Vespa. Not good. On another occasion Juliet turned up as poor white trash laundering clothes and obviously on the wrong side of the Veronese-tracks.
But under Peter Gill's fluent direction the play is restored to its rightful setting in a steamy, 16th century Italian cockpit riddled with violent emotions and provocative feuds.
Thus you get an evening which is drawing the very crowds the RSC so often affronts with outrageous productions which condescend as much as they aggravate.
Here Romeo (Matthew Rhys) who looks exactly right, yet never manages to stand still, is a tight coiled spring, a young Romeo who is frequently emotionally incoherent as the tragedy escalates. Mr Rhys is partnered well by Sian Brook's intensely vulnerable, child- like Juliet.
Between them, these actors burnish the great poetic exchanges and are probably the best pair I have reviewed in a decade.
Deidre Clancy's costumes are fine and flow very well thus, the young duellists look perfect in smart doublets and tights, drawing rapiers not guns when the going gets rough. The Nurse (June Watson who is superb) is hugely sympathetic and in Clancy's costumes looks like an old engraving.
Simon Daw's sun-bleached, all-purpose, centre-stage tower is useful but has little to do with Juliet's bed — purchased, one assumes, from a local shop dealing in Taiwanese junk.
There is little atmosphere in the lighting plot and Juliet's tomb remains unseen. Why the hydraulic lifts have not been used must remain a mystery.
Running time: three hours. Until October.
Copyright 2004 Birmingham Post and Mail Ltd.
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