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BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Norfolk Square Gardens

BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Norfolk Square Gardens

BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Norfolk Square GardensShakespeare in the Squares returns after a successful introduction in 2016 with Much Ado About Nothing, this time taking on a tragedy that has been another popular choice this year - Daniel Kramer's controversial production has almost finished its run at Shakespeare's Globe, for one.

This version is set in 1950s Verona, with World War Two recently concluded and the younger generation seeking to find their own independence. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet's doomed romance is set amidst their families' bitter feud, which is making the city an incredibly dangerous place in which to live. Juliet's cousin, Tybalt, takes offence at Romeo attending their ball and challenges him. When Romeo refuses, his friend Mercutio steps in but is killed - Romeo avenges him by killing Tybalt, but is then banished by the Prince. In a bid to distract and cheer up Juliet, her father arranges for her to marry Paris, setting off a desperate chain of events.

The 50s setting is immediately clear, as the cast set the scene with a couple of related songs ("Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano" and "Mambo Italiano"); this is also ideal for giving the production a summery feel, and lightens the mood before the tragedy unfurls. This decade provides a rich array of influences, with the fights reminiscent of Brighton Rock and the Prince like an emerging Vito Corleone type figure.

Emily Stuart's design wholeheartedly embraces the theme, providing some wonderful costumes, and Yarit Dor's movement and fight direction gives the production an injection of energy. It is a nice idea to bring Shakespeare to open air settings and different environments, though voice projection is sometimes an issue - particularly as the noise of passing vehicles and groups of people (some more respectful than others) compete with Shakespeare's text.

Jack Brett gives a memorable turn as Mercutio, the character's wordplay tripping off his tongue with ease, and coupled with a swagger and air of confidence. Liz Marsh's portrayal of the Nurse lightens the mood throughout, though is also very moving as the Nurse mourns Juliet's apparent death. Another standout performance comes from Andrew Gallo as both the Prince and Paris. Gallo's voice and mannerisms for both characters are so distinctive that each is immediately identifiable - Paris is youthful and apprehensive, whereas the Prince has an air of genuine authority.

The production doesn't quite pack the emotional punch that it could, but it is an enjoyable piece nonetheless. I daresay a comedy might be a more natural choice (as in 2016) for a bit of summer evening entertainment, and the idea of bringing Shakespeare to London's squares is a good one - and a lovely introduction to Shakespeare for the uninitiated.

Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare in the Squares) continues until 13 July

Picture credit: James Millar

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From This Author Debbie Gilpin