In less than a week I will be taking the stage in London for the first time at The Space on the Isle of Dogs. The Space is a quaint repurposed venue full of character and the first thing I noticed on my arrival was that Romeo and Juliet is currently in production, so of course I had to pop along.
I love Romeo and Juliet principally, I think, because though its plot plays hard and fast with the willing suspension of disbelief, its characters are drawn with impeccable honesty.
Tonight, I was treated to one of those brilliant experiences where the familiar becomes new again. The performers delivered deliciously light renditions of Shakespeare’s characters, while also delving richly into the great stock of pathos Shakespeare provided.
I was particularly taken with Lucy Bailey, who took us on the Nurse’s amusing and moving journey of joys and sorrows. Juliet was also given an unusually engaging lightness by Rebecca Burnett that provided the space for joining her on her highs and lows.
There was some novel (and very clever) casting in the form of turning Benvolio into a Benvolia, and Gregory also underwent a sex change. Both characters benefited from finding their feminine side, I thought, though it didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose other than utilising the eternal glut of female actors and relieving the difficulty of fielding a male cast.
And herein lies my one reservation about this production. Despite a couple of interesting choices such as this, and despite some commendable performances, there’s no spark of brilliance to make it truly noteworthy.
These qualities don’t quite compensate for a rather staid envisioning of a text with such broad possibilities. It just seemed far too constrained to its conventional setting, and despite the freshness of the performances, I just wanted something more to sink my teeth into.