A couple of weeks ago I went to Stratford to see the RSC Ensemble’s current production of Romeo and Juliet. Like most people my first experience of Shakespeare was Romeo and Juliet, as well as covering it in school 3 or 4 times I’ve seen the film versions by Franco Zeffirelli (didn’t enjoy it much) and Baz Luhrmann (loved it) and an AmDram youth production of it (absolutely dreadful). I was really excited to go to Stratford and see it done by the experts, and the reviews I’d been reading only added to the anticipation.
Directed by Rupert Goold, the leads were played by Sam Troughton (Much in Robin Hood) and Mariah Gale (Ophelia in the RSC’s Hamlet). Reading through the programme it seemed that many of the actors in the ensemble had a wealth of experience, including Noma Dumezweni (Captain Magambo in Doctor Who) as the Nurse. With the exception of one actor who appeared to be bored every time he was on stage the ensemble were as good as I had been hoping. It would be hard to single out individuals as they all excelled, but I did find myself thinking that it just showed how poor a lot of the Robin Hood material had been – Sam Troughton is a far better actor than I’d ever imagined.
The staging was also excellent, the use of pyrotechnics and smoke jets (I’m sure there’s a technical term but I don’t know it) made me jump on more than one occasion and helped to create the uneasy backdrop for the play. The costuming was very interesting, Romeo and Juliet themselves were dressed in contemporary clothing whilst everyone else wore period dress. The Stage’s review suggests that this “exposes the vulnerability of the pair and the timelessness of their situation” which makes sense to me, but I also felt it separated their world from the world in which the play is set.
I imagine one topic that most people discussed on their way home was the direction, particularly of Mercutio. Whilst the character always pushes boundaries Goold’s direction took it to a whole different level, something I’m sure some of the more traditional, conservative Shakespeare fans may not have appreciated entirely. I absolutely loved it, but must look back at the original text to see if I can work out what Goold’s thought process might have been.
This was the third play I had seen by the RSC at The Courtyard. The quality of all three has been incredible, my next trip is in a couple of weeks to see Gregory Doran’s version of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. My expectations couldn’t be higher!