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Romeo and Juliet

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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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Cast

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 JonesFriar Laurence/Balthazar

Louisa Lynch - Gregory/Pogo

Louise Norman - Prince/Peter

Roger Orr - Lord Montague

Tânia Pais - Nurse

Emike Umolu - Tybalt

Creatives

 

Director - Yohann Philip

Assistant to the directorEmily 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

Review

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.

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