The Stratford Files: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is a colourful, charming, passionate love story. The set is extremely elegant, but minimalistic One interesting note about the theatre is that the whole thing remains extremely well-lit throughout the play, rather than the usual dimming of the lights audiences today expect. This captures the feel of what plays in Shakespeare’s era would be like. Indeed, the entire play is, in many ways, very traditional. For example, Mercutio dies after being dragged off stage – as he does in the script – rather than dying onstage as he frequently does in modern productions.
The actors are all superb. Daniel Briere does a good turn showing the sensitivity and poetic side of Romeo while also showing his adventures and enthusiastically romantic side. Sara Topham is great as the young Juliet and excels in letting the character’s playful energy show through. The two actors have fantastic romantic chemistry together, without which the play would be lost. This is probably the saddest I’ve been in any version of the play at the two lovers deaths. Jonathan Goad does a splendid job portraying the ever-entertaining Mercutio in his ardent enthusiasm for life. The almost insane glee he takes in mischief of all kinds is wonderful to behold. This can particularly be seen in his extremely flamboyant and energetic dueling style which he uses to humiliate Tybalt, and in his classic “Queen Mab” speech, during which he points to members of the audience when describing the dreams that queen Mab inspires in different people. Kate Hennig as the Nurse does a great job portraying all sides to her character, from the motherly to the bawdy, from the kindly to the temperamental, and from the enthusiastic to the cynical. Also, Tom McCamus does a great job portraying Friar Lawrence, the fatherly monk, who is unhappily drawn into the romantic story, clearly wishing the young lovers would control themselves. He and the nurse are the only two characters who seem to recognize the insanity around them for what it is.
The direction is also extremely impressive. None of the sounds in the play are generated artificially; everything from a gunshot into the air to the ringing of a gong to show the passage of time is 100% naturally-generated. The play ends in a magnificent dance scene that shows both the two main characters’ families desire to have them live on inside them and the good things that have been wrought by their senseless deaths. Romeo and Juliet is highly recommended.


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