Shakespeare Society’s second production of the year reimagines the Bard’s classic as a North vs. South divide
The tale of the two star crossed lovers is a story that’s been adapted and interpreted more times than can be imagined. In the Shakespeare Society’s most recent production, it’s Northern grit v Southern swag that fuels the flames of hate between the Montagues and the Capulets.
On first impressions, one thing that did strike me as rather comical was the brash stereotype of the North and the South in relation to the set of the play.
One ‘wall’, representing the Northern Montague’s side, was covered in graffiti and an Oasis poster whilst the Southern Capulet’s wall was draped in delicate cloths and two picturesque paintings. The stereotype continued into the costumes of the families, with the Montague’s wearing the more realistic get-up of jeans and t-shirts whilst the Capulet’s wore rather snooty, plaid suits. One character even had a cane.
Though it was perhaps a crude exaggeration, it did add some light-heartedness and a nice array of colour into the set and costume as well as massively helping in distinguishing what ‘side’ each of the characters were on.
Another part of the set that was interesting was the use of a number of plain wooden boxes used to construct different settings in different scenes, such as the famous balcony scene. Though there were a few awkward scene changes, I liked the use of the boxes and thought they brought a fresh addition to the set and allowed the audience to visualise the different locations in the play. The actors also used these well, jumping, sitting, and hiding behind them which made for some comical and intriguing scenes.
In terms of the performance itself, the production had a great cast. All were enjoyable to watch and each made me understand the Shakespearean dialogue. There were some actors, however, that stood out.
The double-act of Mercutio (Tom Bass) and Benvolio (Kenan Vurgun) was brilliant and both played off of each other very well, particularly a scene when Mercutio had drunk far too much vodka and was drunkenly stroking Benvolio’s face. It was actually a shame that Shakespeare had to kill Mercutio off, as we didn’t get to see him in the second act!
For me however, the star of the show was Emily Brown, who played Juliet’s nurse. She was hilarious, almost every time she made an appearance the whole audience would laugh and her stage presence was captivating. A memorable performance.
Finally, I must give credit to Nick Nuttall as Paris for not breaking character and managing to stay looking as though she was dead, even after a painting fell off the wall and landed on her face.
Overall, though there were a couple of slip-ups (such as the painting debacle) and a few times when the pace lagged slightly, the play was a good watch and made the story of Romeo and Juliet easy to understand whilst having some great bits of comedy and passion from the cast.