Creation Theatre Company - Romeo and Juliet
28th July to 11th September 2004.
From The Times.
From the Newbury Weekly News.
Creation Theatre Company: Romeo and Juliet, at Headington Hill Park, until September 11
The two tribes of Montague and Capulet go to war again, only two years after Creation Theatre Company last staged Romeo and Juliet.
This time the location is their now permanent residence at Headington Hill Park, Oxford, a near-perfect setting for director Abigail Anderson's imaginative realisation of Shakespeare's story of duelling Italian families.
Tellingly, in the programme notes, Anderson makes the point that the drama veers from high comedy to darkest tragedy just as the audience experiences daylight fading into night.
The outdoor setting allows for a strong immediacy of action, with Romeo's signature scene by Juliet's balcony delivered from halfway up the seating area.
Fight scenes (thrillingly-choreographed by Kate Waters) appear more exciting as the actors scratch up the stony surface of the stage.
The leads are well matched with youthful looks and energetic verse-speaking. Elaine Symons, so good in Out of Joint's contemporary play Duck, last year, is a vibrant Juliet, full of wide-eyed allure for the pouting, pretty Romeo (Jamie Harding). Romeo and Juliet succeeds if the audience feels that this couple can't wait to couple. They can't.
The star-cross'd lovers are well-directed to reflect them being too young to cope with the political situation developing around them.
Anderson surprises us by casting Matthew Hendrickson as the Nurse, a cross between Postman Pat and a pantomime Les Dawson chatting over the garden fence. Even in the most tragic scenes, Hendrickson's inflections cause minor chuckles.
This (as usual with Creation) heavily cut Romeo and Juliet is funnier than most productions, thanks mainly to George Mayfield's tousle-haired, umbrella-duelling Mercutio and Jean-Marc Perret's OTT Tybalt, only one step down from the Master in Doctor Who. Their fight scene is the best in the production, an incredible fusion of tomfoolery and unexpected murder.
This abridged version also allows us to feel more sympathy than usual for the Prince's family after the deaths of Mercutio and Paris. There is an unusually up-beat finale with the ghosts of the lovers passing a row of candles, blowing in the wind, fading gently into the woods.
Quite magical. Brave the weather, it's worth it.