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26.06.2009- Romeo and Juliet

Friday, 26 June 2009

 
Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, 21.06.2009, 6.30pm

Romeo and Juliet is perhaps Shakespeare's most famous play. Written in the same year as one of my personal favourites, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the narrative is universally known. This alone makes it a challenge for any director to maintain the interest of the audience throughout the many tedious (and lengthy) preambles to the tragic conclusion of the piece, and is something which it seems Dominic Dromgoole's production at Shakespeare's Globe suffers from.

The performance began promisingly enough, as members of the chorus and musicians performed dirges and poems from the 16th century, including a composition by Walter Raleigh, which cites life as a 'play of passion', an appropriate prelude to a narrative which is argued as the most romantic of all time. Unfortunately however, the interactions between Romeo and Juliet in this performance never reached the intensity required in order to maintain the interest of an audience through to the denouement.

The main problem I had with this performance was rooted in Ellie Kendrick's portrayal of Juliet. Although the character is weak by comparison to some of Shakespeare's feistier heroines (Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew, Portia in The Merchant of Venice) she is still gifted with some eloquent and powerful speeches. However, Kendrick's poor diction often means that the subtleties of Shakespeare's language are lost, and in her haste to deliver her lines (presumably before she forgets them) she makes the performing of Juliet feel laboured, when it should feel carefree and natural. Kendrick looks uncomfortable and overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the stage and I never got the feeling that any of the sentiment behind her Juliet was felt in earnest.

Adetomiwa Edun's Romeo is far better than Kendrick's Juliet, and he seems to relish the challenge of the character, delivering speeches emphatically and commanding the stage with gusto. However, his Romeo seems far older than Juliet, and the pairing feels unbalanced from the outset, something which makes Edun's task in portraying a lovesick young man even more difficult.

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Particularly memorable performances in this rather stagnant production come from Philip Cumbus as the bawdy yet fiercely loyal Mercutio; indeed his famous death scene takes on a new comic dynamic as Mercutio tries to disguise his hurt from his fellows. Jack Farthing too portrays Benvolio with a youthful enthusiasm and offers a light-hearted and jovial interpretation of a character who is too often performed as middle aged and stern. Fergal Mcelherron is welcome comic relief in his multiple roles and performs with an energy which the performance as a whole is lacking.

The aesthetic of the piece also lacks cohesion; the costumes feel like they have been procured from the Globe's dress up box of breeches and dresses left from previous performances and the central staircase, far from being an interesting addition to the set, becomes irritating as actors labour up and down it with little energy. Overall a disappointing performance, which I only hope is not the benchmark for the 2009 season at the Globe.

(Photo credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

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