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Review: Romeo and Juliet at Newcastle Alphabetti

A Perfect Romeo & Juliet?

Romeo and Juliet
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre – Until Friday 29th April 2016
Stanley Alun Armstrong Theatre – Saturday 30th April 2016
South Shields Customs House – Thursday 19th May 2016

If not Shakespeare’s most famous play, it is certainly the one which is studied the most at school. As we mark the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death local theatre company Cranked Anvil produce a modern adaptation that remains faithful to the spirit of the original tragedy.

David Jackson and Brogan Gilbert
Action shifts from Verona to South Shields. The first scene starts with the lads getting ready for a football match. The  Montagues are putting on the red and white of Sunderland whilst the Capulets don the black and white of Newcastle. Romeo tells his cousin Benvolio that he is deeply in love. Benvolio laughs it off. After the match there is a brawl that has to be calmed down by the police.

Tensions are still high later in a bar owned by Capulet. Lady Capulet points out to a very bored Juliet that potentially great catch in the shape of suitor Paris but she isn’t interested. Romeo then walks in to the bar and her life takes a whole new direction.

With this production the actors deliver Shakepeare’s script in an authentic way in the region’s local accent.  This helps make the production very accessible without losing any of the punch of the original script. Using the settings of local bars and a football match help make the production engaging and relevant. The sound design replicates that muffled sound that one gets in clubs when one isn’t directly on the dance floor which is a nice touch.

In the spirit of a Shakespearean play, the set is minimal and the play relies heavily of the dialogue and the action. The early fight scene was pretty realistic as fight choreographer Wayne Miller has done a brilliant job of setting up a lot of action and noise so it feels like the punches are being thrown.

The real credit that lifts this production into a “must-see” is the quality of the acting. David Jackson and Brogan Gilbert from all girl comedy sketch group “Your Aunt Fanny” are totally believable as the doomed couple. You get a sense of the tension of the first flush of teenage love.  It is fabulous to see such a young pair of actors delivering such a confident performance.

The older cast members are just as involved in the action and don’t feel like extras. Steven Stobbs and James Barton bond well with Romeo as his friends Benvolio and Mercutio. Sean Kenny has the presence of a controlling patriarch. Likewise Wayne Miller has a confident attitude as Tybalt. Their preferred groom for Juliet, Paris, is played by Newcastle born Luke Hammond.

Christina Cuthbertson is suitably stand-offish as the not particularly supportive Lady Capulet. In contrast Vanessa Karon’s Nurse is much more connected with Juliet’s feelings.

Director Paul Dunn also appears as the helpful Friar Laurence and the Friar often has a settling effect on a tense situation.

This production is a happy marriage of great acting, lively action scenes and a charismatic cast. The decision to deliver a parochial production has helped liberate Shakespeare’s story and they’ve probably ended up with a show that’s closer to what the Bard intended. If you never seen a Shakespeare play live before then this is an excellent place to start. High recommended.     

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Alphabetti Theatre,
Newcastle – Tuesday 26th – Friday 29th April 2016, 7.30pm.
Tickets: £7/£5.
Box office: 0191 261 5906
Alun Armstrong Theatre, StanleySaturday 30th April 2016,  7pm. 
Tickets: £10
Box office:  01207 299 110
The Customs House, South ShieldsThursday 19th May 2016, 7.45pm. 
Tickets:  £8 Early Bird / £10 Standard / £6 Friends / £20 Meal Deal
Box office:  0191 454 1234

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