Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, was directed by Yohann Philip. It was performed at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, from 19th to 22nd October 2022.
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Daniel Aarons - Paris
Charnice Alexandria - Sampson/Potpan
Maddy Baskerville - Benvolio
Hayley Blundell - Abraham
Gina Cormack - Juliet
David Frost - Lord Capulet
Edward Godfrey - Romeo
Kathryn Hartley-Booth - Lady Capulet
Clarisse Hassan - Lady Montague
Charlotte Holmes - Mercutio/Apothecary
Maddy Jones - Friar Laurence/Balthazar
Louisa Lynch - Gregory/Pogo
Louise Norman - Prince/Peter
Roger Orr - Lord Montague
Tânia Pais - Nurse
Emike Umolu - Tybalt
Director - Yohann Philip
Assistant to the director - Emily Lamm
Production Manager - Séverine Powell
Stage Manager - Gill Daly
Assistant Stage Managers - Chloe Couper, Emily Lamm
and Ben Lynch
Sound - Anne-Lise Vassoille
Costumes - Jane Jones
Hair and Make-up - Denise Biffin
Prompt - Paul Sykes
Fight Director - Rachid Sabriti
Choreographer - Tanisha Knight
Live Music - David Frost, Mike Frost, Theo Frost,
Andrew Cunningham (aka The Bards)
Poster Design - Clarisse Hassan
Graffiti Design - Ryan Harris
Programme Cover Photography - Ian Jones
Box Office - Jan Rae
Front of House - Séverine Powell, Jan Rae
Assisted by - Members of the Society
by Mike Foster
By all accounts, diarist Samuel Pepys was the first critic to review Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. And he did not like what he saw: “It is a play of itself the worst that I ever heard in my life.”
No such problems with the Dulwich Players production, directed by Yohann Philip, who took the play to a new level.
The first half in particular was superb! As Shakespeare intended, the production married a serious theme with comic relief. But it also contrasted Tudor England and modern UK, providing an insight into the kind of tensions which erupt between factions in a troubled world.
Our government is split between One-nation and Neo-liberal Tories. Philip’s split was between Montagues and Capulets, warring for the biggest possible slice of the capitalist pie, as well as the attention of the audience.
Romeo and Juliet come from different sides of the divide but dare to fall in love. Denied their love, they take their own lives, leaving their families to mourn and (hopefully) live in peace thereafter. The protagonists (Edward Godfrey and Gina Cormack) were utterly convincing in their love. The dream sequence, enacted with other members of the cast, where they cast off the chains of their past was brilliant. Juliet’s nurse, Tania Pais, displayed ambivalence but ultimate loyalty to her charge. Her mother (Kathryn Hartley-Booth) was a masterful tart with a heart.
What I like from the outset was the way Philip took risks with the plot, stretching it to modern themes without losing the original. I loved the way the cast visited raves and discos, travelling on tube journeys mocked up between chairs, which, by chance, reminded me of scenes in Neil Gaiman’s wonderful urban fantasy Neverwhere.
Having a rock band on stage was daring – almost as hard as acting with animals and children – but it really worked! Congrats to David Frost for leading the band as well as the Capulet family. Playing” I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” by the Arctic Monkeys for the party where Romeo and Juliet meet, was pure genius. Roger Orr also doubled up nicely as head of the Montagues and top party-goer.
A special tribute should go to Maddy Jones who played a drug-addled Friar Laurence, complete with Sex Pistols T-shirt and blue hair. Getting Friar Laurence busted to sit in his/her prison cell, developed a wonderful sub-plot.
Emike Umolu conjured up a wonderful air of menace as Tybalt. I did actually wonder why the Capulets liked her so much; I guess she was really good at her job. Charlotte Holmes was an excellent thigh-slapping Mercutio, turning into a nicely sinister Apothecary in a hoodie towards the end.
I have always found the second half of Romeo & Juliet more ‘difficult’ and so it proved in this production. Appearances by the police and the band, plus the friar’s busts, helped to dispel the developing air of menace. I’d pick out the final tube journey, devoid of previous exuberance as Romeo travels to his fate, as a special moment.
But sadly, the impact of innovation tends to fade with use and it is hard to deal with Shakespeare’s latter scenes where comedy fades away and three young people end up dead on stage.
More of the scenes could have been reduced in length, and new diversions could have been devised. But, at the end of the day, there is a limit to how far you can cut and dice Shakespeare, while staying true to the original.
Congratulations to all for pushing it to the max.