As the Everyman Theatre’s Company presents its fifth and final offering of the season, it is safe to say that this is a series that has gone from strength-to-strength. Since February this year, this skilled group of artists has took us through a journey of music, comedy and dance. Finally concluding with Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’, it was nothing of a surprise when Hope Street’s hive of creativity and imagination decided to portray a classic with a twist.
As it has so many times over the centuries, the story of two families at odds unfolds. Staying faithful as can be to the original text, the opening act begins; this time however with several notable differences. The accents are not so much high-brow as they are home-grown; the setting is sparse, not palatial, and the delivery is as rough and edgy as The Bard’s language will permit it to be.
Dean Nolan is the first character to grab the audience’s attention, and his portrayal of Mercutio is something to behold. Some may conclude that his slapstick, heavy-handed take on the role is overdone, but one need only take time to appreciate his precise movements and crisp, fervent speech to understand that this is an actor pulling out all the stops (and doing an incredible job in the process).
The company by now have more than mastered their vocal harmonies and this show is simply another opportunity to showcase this. Pauline Daniels never fails in her ability to command the stage. Her haunting voice, accompanied by other members of the cast, sends chills and sets the scene perfectly.
As for the star-crossed lovers, the plot thickens as Juliet is substituted for Julius (Elliott Kinsley). Gentle and well-groomed, Kingsley plays Julius with grace and heart-on-sleeve realness. His incredible likability permeates through to his character and, just as in previous roles, he is truly sincere as he moves though the feelings of lust, love, fear and anger. His Romeo (George Caple) is a little rougher around the edges. Hooded and often somewhat foreboding, it is at times hard to appreciate his elation at finding his true love. While the chemistry between the two lovers is not fully convincing, it would be unfair to say that either actor was giving anything less than his all. Caple is a proven, class actor and in solo scenes he genuinely shines; delivering lines with perfect timing and emotion to match.
The jewel in the crown of this performance is Melanie La Barrie, not so much for her clever comic timing, but indeed for her overall incredible depiction of Julius’ Nurse. Her ability to bring a character to life in so many ways is both consistent and captivating.
Modern takes are always a huge risk, with many having tried and failed to do so. This piece however, is a credit to Nick Bagnall’s direction and the Company’s immense grit at being able to take-on any show with professionalism and huge doses of fun. Some purists may not be able to see beyond the risqué representation of this love story; the quirky costumes and the coarse speech may be too much. That said, I suppose those attitudes may have existed towards the original play – the scandalous topics and saucy lines providing as much controversy as they did entertainment. Perhaps this affirms one of the many reasons this play is still relevant over four hundred years later. This truly is a piece of theatre well worth seeing and a refreshing take on one of Shakespeare’s finest works.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
‘Romeo & Juliet’ can be seen, along with the other four plays, at The Everyman, Hope Street, L1 9BH – see sure to check out their website for further details.