"CLARITY AND ENTERTAINMENT"
(Photographs by Dónall Dempsey)
This company of seven men promise their audiences “clarity and entertainment” and with this production they delivered all of that. Shakespeare’s archetypal tale became clear in the actors’ mouths; every word counted. Love, hatred, the gap between the concerns of elders and the impulses of their children, adolescent passion and the tragedy when all of these collide, unfolded in a production of which Shakespeare would surely have approved.
James Beedham and Will Haddington were selling the excellent programme. (Dónall was rereading the play!)
The constraints of a travelling company can become strengths. No need for more than an abstract set and minimal props; iconic, easily-read Elizabethan costumes: swirling full-skirted dress and flowery wreath for Juliet; jewelled cloaks and brocade for characters of noble birth; home-spun for the low-born; Romeo first in a white, then a deep scarlet shirt.
The stately figure of Lady Capulet created a small stir when Nicholas Limm spoke his first lines; the first kiss between Romeo and Juliet sparked a shocked titter among some young members of the audience; but we quickly forgot the actors’ real-life gender. We were in thrall to the characters they had become, their emotions, the tensions in their situations and Shakespeare’s timeless lines.
John Sandeman performed powerfully as the charming, witty, impulsive Mercutio but also the fiercely controlling Capulet father.
By the time the play reached its inevitable tragic climax, the sun had gone down, the moon had come up and the action was highlighted against a clear dark sky. The set that had reflected the sun's copper and gold became mottled with verdigris as the lovers met their ends in the Capulet vault and their grieving parents wept over their bodies.
Will Haddington as Romeo, the wilful, adolescent lover, had the audience alternately in love with him and in sympathy with Friar Laurence, whose role as Romeo's surrogate father James Beedham’s playing brought out so clearly.
David O’Connor as Juliet’s nurse brought out all the nuances of the role: the motherly woman on whom Juliet depends for love, protection and advice; her divided loyalty as she sadly tells Juliet to be ready to marry Paris, and the flirty old woman teased mercilessly by Romeo’s laddish cousins.
Jonathan Bullock’s Juliet developed convincingly from giggly, self-conscious child to a passionate secretive young woman faced with her parents’ intention to “sell” her to her father's friend, the blameless Paris (Will Richards).
We left the darkened garden satisfied after an evening of memorable entertainment, and with a renewed understanding of the play.
As we left we said goodbye to Juliet, sans skirt, who was single-handedly (it seemed) dismantling the set.
The company’s next performance is in Germany. (Find out more at www.tlcm.co.uk)