The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0359 Monday, 9 February 2004
Date: Sunday, 8 Feb 2004 01:10:21 -0800
Subject: A Splinter Off R&J
[The popular movie "Shakespeare in Love" used bits and pieces of Romeo &
Juliet; now there is a state adaptation of R&J, by a NY-based theater
group, that also uses pieces, with considerable impact. The reviewer
below takes note of what is lost in the slicing and dicing.]
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
The Scotsman, Feb. 7, 2004
ROMEO and Juliet is a hardy perennial, so how to make it fresh?
Especially when there have been so many attempts, from West Side Story
to Baz Luhrmann. The fact that Splinter Group's R&J manages with aplomb
is no mean feat.
Joe Calarco's adaptation is set in a repressive Catholic boarding school
where four young men discover the forbidden Shakespeare text (albeit
heavily edited and spliced with sonnets and bits of A Midsummer Night's
Dream) and act it out under cover of night. What begins as a bit of a
lark turns serious as the raw power of the text gets under their skin.
The show ran in New York for a year and is now beginning a UK tour with
a new English cast.
It turns a familiar text into a voyage of discovery: as the boys
discover with astonishment what is on the next page, so do we. With a
section of bare wooden flooring, two chairs and length of red cloth,
they create the Verona of the Montagus and Capulets. They discover the
raw essence of theatre.
Romeo and Juliet is about, among many things, being a teenager, and what
this production does best is to capture the adolescent rollercoaster of
high-intensity emotions. It has a raw, lithe physicality: a play fight
quickly becomes a life-or-death tussle, demonstrating how short the
distance is from intense love to intense hate.
Shakespeare's play is an unstoppable high-speed train of events: murder,
passion, revenge, marriage, banishment, despair, suicide. It has a
relentless pace which many stage productions fail to capture.
This one does, though at the expense of rattling through the lines too
fast. Fair performances by the four young actors, particularly Tom McKay
as Romeo and Liam Evans-Ford as a fantastically camp Nurse, largely fail
to rescue their richness.
This deceptively difficult play has an emotional core which turns on a
sixpence. Given the right treatment, it will deliver heartstopping
moments of magic, humour, eroticism, sadness. This production is not
unaware of these; it simply does not tarry long enough for them to have
their intended impact.
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