It was a brave decision for the University Shakespeare Company to perform the unabridged version of Romeo and Juliet, and it is commendable that the entire cast were fully committed to bringing Shakespeare’s classic dramatic tragedy in it’s undiluted form, to the stage. It was a well-rehearsed and slick performance. However there were a few moments of rushed speech with not enough emphasis or care given to some of the key lines.
The quality of acting was predominantly professional and moving. The performances of Juliet (Eliza Lawrence), the Nurse (Kirsten Millar), and Mercutio (Will Peppercorn) were standout. Understanding and faultless mastery of their characters really shone through, blessing the audience with the effortless ability to appreciate Shakespeare’s more subtle humour. Juliet especially brought a beautiful and delicate grace to her part which was a privilege to watch.
The quality of the acting and direction was sadly somewhat let down by the standard and execution of the costume and set design. It was not entirely clear what the costumes were meant to achieve, modernising the characters seemed superfluous, considering that the set design did not have any cohesion with the modern costumes, therefore they jarred against each other and detracted from the narrative. The Montagues and the Capulets seemed to be dressed in opposing school uniforms, which could have been an interesting concept, but without follow through it appeared awkward and obscure. A simpler concept would have perhaps been more consistent and effective.
The set design was also somewhat confusing as to what it was representing, and although there were undoubtedly good ideas in the mix, it came off as overly ambitious. For example in the scene where Juliet’s comatose body is discovered by her family, the prop that served as her window was circled around the actress multiple times, to move the audience from an external to internal vantage. It was an interesting concept, but one that needed fine-tuning. The movement seemed excessive and distracted from the emotional charge of the scene, and Juliet herself, by undermining a strong stage presence due to an over-reliance on props. In the final scenes in the crypt however, the set design was simple and powerful, it helped intensify the performance and complimented the actors.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable depiction of Romeo and Juliet with some standout exceptional performances. However, slightly let down by the inconsistency of inspiration behind the design.
Romeo and Juliet
Runs 6th- 10th March
Image: Andrew Perry