Review: Romeo & Juliet @ Sherman CymruÂ
This is the production that the newly refurbished Sherman Cymru has been waiting for. A classic of Shakespeare, here given an appealing modern twist that, unlike some recent opera productions, actually works.
Few need me to tell them the story of the play. It is one of two star-crossed lovers whose love is forbidden, as their families are in bitter rivalry with one another. It all ends in heartbreak and death. Happy times...
Arriving in the theatre, the set was grand, grey and imposing. By far the best set I have seen here. It put me in mind of GÃ¶tterdÃ¤mmerung in Bayreuth this year (though on a smaller scale). It was a sort of back alley, with tatty posters (even one for Baz Lurham's film of Romeo + Juliet), leading up to a hidden balcony.
This ensemble of players - both old and young - have great potential and much to be pleased with. Our male lead, Chris Gordon, is a fit and blunt Romeo. His voice feels very well-suited to Shakespeare, but a vain of blandness seeps through. Sophie Melville, is a Valleys Juliet who is kurt and also in good favour for love. When she stabs herself at the end with the knife, it made the audience cringe in its realistic appearance of suicide. The stage combat here was also commendable with its fights, which started riotously (as it should do) at the beginning.
Tony Flynn was a flaming homosexual as Peter, but filled with anger and fed up with quarrels as the Prince (also playing a yop-like Apothecary). A disappointment was Tybalt and Paris both being played by Luke Eliott Bridgman, as he never really exceeded being more a local bully and creep. Scott Reid was our punk Scottish Mercutio. Sexed up and full of vigour, it was a shame to see him die and not to come back. Linden Walcott-Burton remained a methodical, handsome and pleasing Benvolio.
The show was undoubtedly stolen by Anita Reynolds as the Nurse (doubling as Lady Montague). With her sassy Jamaican attitude and pink track suit, this audience was in sways of laughter. The humour would come to an end in the second half, as she became more joyful, then hysterical and mournful, swaying back and forth in her grief. Sara Lloyd-Gregory is a bit of a lush Lady Capulet, Paul Rattray a bit brutal and no nonsense as Capulet. Many congratulations to Sean O'Callaghan who doubled as Friar Lawrence and Montague. In a blistering show of force, he proved his worth as a veteran actor.
Rachel O'Riordan's production feels perfect for young people and those in school studying Shakespeare. It will help to appeal to them by giving it contemporary accessibility. The current soundtrack may have been phoned in - only ever being used to scene change - but that would keep the interest fresh for young ones who have grown tired of the Bard.
Stellar Shakespeare at the Sherman.
Romeo & Juliet continues at Sherman Cymru till Saturday 18th October 2014. You can buy tickets here.
- Preview: Romeo & Juliet @ Sherman Cymru (15/9/14)
- Review: Pontardawe Arts Centre - Merchant Of Venice @ Chapter Arts Centre (10/10/14)
- Review: Julius Caesar @ New Theatre (2012)
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Photo Credit: Sherman website