Theatre Review - Romeo and Juliet

Toheeb Jimoh and Isis Hainsworth Credit Marc Brenner

Rebecca Frecknall’s sensational staging of Romeo and Juliet captures the sense of the Capulets and Montagues as feuding gangs in Verona - menacing each other across the stage - accompanied by Prokofiev’s ballet score.

She sets a cracking pace. Rather than exiting, actors often melt into the stage and lie still until the next scene. This allows the play to run at two hours without pause and gives a dream like quality to the action. But the ensemble work and theatre craft sometimes outshine individual performances.

Romeo (Toheeb Jimoh), a Montague, and Juliet (Isis Haisworth), a Capulet, meet at a party and feel an instant attraction. They know their union is impossible but, headstrong teenagers, they meet clandestinely and declare their love for one another. Helped by Juliet’s nurse (Jo McInnes) and Friar Lawrence (Paul Higgins) the pair get married, at lightning speed.

Another fight breaks out in Verona, and Tybalt (Jyuddah Jaymes) murders Romeo’s friend Mercutio (Jack Riddiford). Avenging Mercutio’s death, Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona. This sense of tit for tat in gang culture is brilliantly conveyed.

Haisworth captures Juliet’s adoloscent awkwardness and fierce loyalty, angry and shouty when thwarted, and Jimoh reminds us of Romeo’s easy charm and youthful impetuosity.

However, it may be the propulsive nature of the production, but the two leads, while radiating passionate chemistry, lack nuance and occasionally swallow their lines. Riddiford almost steals the show in his brief appearance as Mercutio, spitting with rage and repressed lust.

The opening is electrifying and in sharp contrast to the candle-lit, haunting final scene which finally allows us to draw breath. Despite the lack of interval, the audience remained mesmerised throughout.

To July 29

Originally published by Islington Tribune