Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0251.  Saturday, 19 March 1994.
From:           Ellen Edgerton <EBEDGERT@SUADMIN>
Date:           Saturday, 19 Mar 1994 15:04 ET
Subject:        Renaissance *R&J*
The Renaissance Theatre Company's radio production of *Romeo and Juliet* has
made it to U.S. shores on CD and cassette (it was last year's broadcast; this
year's will be/has been *King Lear*).  They are allegedly out to do uncut
performances of the entire canon on radio, at the rate of one per year, which
should have them wrapping it up, oh, around 2028 or so.
So far I really don't know what to make of this series. These productions ought
to be more exciting than they actually are, what with the all-star casts, and
while they're not bad, they're not all good, either.  That said, I was
pleasantly surprised by the *R&J*, which seems better than the *Hamlet*
production of 1992. Those who are looking for Cutting-Edge Critical
Interpretation of these plays had better look elsewhere, but if you can swallow
a Romeo and Juliet in their early 30's (Kenneth Branagh and Samantha Bond), a
Mercutio in his mid-50's (Derek Jacobi) and other assorted grownups playing
teenagers, this production occasionally produces some interesting turns.   I
thought Branagh would be very silly as Romeo, but he plays Romeo without a
whole lot of pretension, an impulsive teenager with bouts of lucidity, so I was
pleasantly surprised.  Wish I could say the same for Samantha Bond's Juliet,
who in the U.K. press seemed to get better reviews for playing her as
world-weary and painfully mature, than Branagh did for playing his part with at
least a little foolish passion.  (I always got the impression that Juliet was a
little more worldly than her Romeo, but this is ridiculous.)
A very ambitious program for Renaissance, but I still don't think it can be
anything more than an interesting series of rough drafts, as long as they're
going to record the plays uncut without any real directorial vision.  (Shades
of the BBC-TV series...)  It is, however, an approach that seems very well
suited to the comedies, and the actors' clarity of speech and meaning in these
productions are impressive.  I would hope that their 1995 project will be
something along the lines of *AYLI* or *Love's Labour's Lost*.
Ellen Edgerton
Syracuse University
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