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BWW Reviews: ROMEO AND JULIET, Temple Church, September 1 2014

Once you find Temple Church, having negotiated the the maze of Diagon Alley-like streets, walking past the lairs of lawyers with their Mercedes parked outside, the venue does not disappoint. Home of the famous (or is that infamous?) Knights Templar, with effigies of dead knights under your feet to prove it, the still atmosphere of the nave, with just a platform on a platform for performers and chairs for us, would overpower many a company. Fortunately, Antic Disposition are used to such spaces, their production of A Christmas Carol returning to nearby Middle Temple Hall this Christmas after its success last year. But now, the lights go down and figures, heads bowed, gather and we're told of what we will soon see - the sad tale of the star cross'd lovers.

If there is any residual feeling that the magnificent space may prove too much for the mere mortals asked to act, that is dispelled in a superbly staged masked ball, the dancers moving with grace (and just a hint of violence) as Romeo catches Juliet's eye and their spiral to death begins. The fights too are staged with equal authenticity - as they must be with no member of the audience more than thirty feet away - the knives carrying a palpable heft, the brawls every bit as convincing as the Friday night dust-ups that might lead to the lawyers outside taking an interest.

Dylan Kennedy gives us a Romeo full of charm, a darting, delicate figure who has something of Coldplay's Chris Martin about his look, but who fought tooth and nail when roused by Tybalt's murderous hate. Bryony Tebbutt's Juliet delivers the coquettish flirting that captures Romeo's heart, but she can scream the house church down when the appalling consequences of the Montague - Capulet feud hit home. I think a Knight's statue may have winced.

Amongst the excellent support cast, Helen Evans' turn as Nurse is a standout, all common sense and comic relief, while Alex Hooper's playboy Paris rocks the Raybans and James Murfitt is equally good as a yobbish Mercutio - but a yob not short of charisma.

Site-specific shows like this work when they integrate their surroundings into the production. With graves literally encircling the stage, Antic Disposition's Romeo and Juliet (continuing at Temple Church until 7 September) delivers that brief perfectly, a unique, and thrilling, experience.


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From This Author Gary Naylor