Romeo and Juliet

15 Aug

Whilst in London I went to the Garrick Theatre to see Kenneth Branagh’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”.

I found the production uneven.  Two things disturbed me a lot.  One was the setting.  Shakespeare’s plays are, mostly, timeless, in that you can shift them quite happily through time and space without upsetting the story.  However, because “Romeo & Juliet” deals with teenage love, and the marriage of a girl not yet 14, shifting the setting to the fascistic Italy of Mussolini, just feels so badly wrong.  As if Lord Capulet is pandering to a paeodophile in attempting to marry Juliet to Paris.  In Shakespeare’s own time and earlier, this was nothing to quibble about.  Marriages were contracted early.  But by the 1930s-1940s, this simply was not done.

The second thing was the sheer brutality of Lord Capulet.  Turning him from a harried father to a brutal, abusive, psychopath, changed the tone too much.  There was no need for the violence displayed on stage as he throws Juliet around in his rage.  No, sorry, if I want to see that I’ll watch the bloody news.

However, the production does have three things going for it.  Three of the actors.

Sir Derek Jacobi – I freely admit that I wanted to attend the play purely for the chance to see one of the greatest actors of our age on the stage.  Having adored him in the BBC Shakespeare’s productions of “Richard II” and “Hamlet” in my teens.  Sir Derek played Mercutio.  Usually a young man, full of pomposity and arrogance, in Sir Derek’s hands, Mercutio becomes an avuncular oracle to Romeo, dispensing advice, wit, and sarcasm in equal measures.  His death scene is a delight.

Meera Syal – Meera played Juliet’s nurse, one of Shakespeare’s most delightful comic creations.  She captured the stage and the audience in the palm of her hand and never let them go.  A brilliant performance.

Samuel Valentine – Friar Laurence is one of those characters, like Horatio in “Hamlet”, where the role is small, but pivotal.  Samuel’s Friar Laurence was a creation of strength, honour, and love.  Watch for this actor.  I am positive he will go on to greater things.

Though, as I said, the production was uneven, I would not have missed it for the world.  The chance to see three fantastic actors at work, was well worth the cost.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: