Romeo And Juliet – March 2010 (2)


By William Shakespeare

Directed by Michael Fentiman

Company: RSC Understudies

Venue: Courtyard Theatre

Date: Tuesday 30th March 2010

This was much better than yesterday, with less of the excessive comic business, and some very good performances from this permutation of the ensemble.

The introduction by Michael Fentiman was a stumbling effort – he was clearly nervous – but he still managed to make us laugh a few times. The initial staging for the prologue was the same, but Romeo took some time to get his headphones untangled, so there were fewer pictures taken of the inside of whatever building we were in. Capulet, Montague and the Prince were all much better today, with more gravitas, and the scene where Juliet defies her father was very strongly acted. But Mercutio showed the greatest improvement, and not only increased our enjoyment of the performance, but also cut the running time by ten minutes by not doing all the unnecessary stuff we saw last night.

As it was the understudies’ run, Mrs Montague wasn’t in the final scene tonight, but her death was still not announced. Balthasar spoke the closing two couplets, and the second song he sang was as the friar heads down to the crypt. The Romeo/rosemary lines were missing today, as was almost all of Mercutio’s miming – hooray. This Mercutio was much better, clear and lively and intelligent. I was sorry to see him go this time, but there was a lot more blood and he was clearly wounded. Romeo was just as good (Peter from yesterday), and the Friar was also pretty good.

There was a lot of coughing in the second half. I’d noticed this last night, and where we were sitting today I found out why. All the smoke from the nurse’s pipe and Lady Capulet’s cigarettes drifted over our way, and I felt my throat tickle a few times. Juliet was less sulky today, twirling her toy thingy for fun, because she’s still a child, although this interpretation doesn’t fit so well with her clever sharing of the sonnet form with Romeo.

For the potion scene, Juliet wasn’t writhing around in pain this time, she just moved a little bit and then lay still. Her reactions weren’t so ludicrous during the death scene either. Lady Capulet didn’t do her keep fit routine at all today – hooray! We could see better today from this position – consider for future. The hip-hop references by Romeo and Juliet were dropped. I was more aware of Paris’s plight, poor man, in love but doomed to failure. Steve spotted that, during the party when Lady Capulet leaves the upper level, she went past Tybalt and kissed him – something you want to tell us, m’Lady? Steve reckoned she may have been closer to Tybalt than anyone’s ever suggested before.

During the confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt, Mercutio used the bicycle pump to ‘inflate’ first one finger, then a second. Just as crude as yesterday, perhaps, but much funnier. After he bent Tybalt’s sword, he used it as a fishing rod today, instead of playing cricket. Romeo rode around the stage in circles when he first visited Friar Laurence, who stopped him with a hand on the handlebars when he guessed, correctly, that Romeo hasn’t been to bed. Romeo siad ‘nope’ when the friar guessed he was up early, and when he told the friar that he wanted him to conduct the marriage ceremony between himself and Juliet, he did an imaginary drum roll before saying ‘today’.

When Capulet was first speaking to Paris, there were various sellers walking around with boxes on their heads – fruit, flowers, that sort of thing – and Paris selected a bunch of flowers from one of them.

© 2010 Sheila Evans at

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