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Ruby Ticket Reviews: Romeo and Juliet

Ruby Ticket Partner, the Almeida Theatre, offered our Young Community tickets to see Romeo and Juliet in June. Ruby Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A black, male wearing a pink vest top and grey trousers sitting on the floor holding the arm of a white female wearing a white corset top and grey skirt. They are looking at each other in a serious way.
Romeo and Juliet at the Almeida Theatre

This reimagining of Shakespeare‘s ferocious and bloody tragedy was directed by Rebecca Frecknall (Cabaret) and starred Isis Hainsworth (Red Rose) and Emmy Award-nominee Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso). Read what our Young Community thought below:

"Shakespeare done in two hours. Sign me up! The pushing of the wall to become a stage and the beautiful candlelit backdrop gave it a real storybook atmosphere. The performances were great, I was particularly taken by the priest, who had great comedic skills and Juliet’s dad who was both funny then terrifying. The production was cinematic in delivery and length. I was particularly struck by the choice to play Juliet so young, she was very much a girl, and made the selling her off to a group of men, even Romeo, have a sinister edge, highlighting the lack of agency women had in marriage. Beautiful production, Rebecca Frecknall did it again!"

- Sam

"Romeo and Juliet was a show full of passion, anger, and rivalry. What I loved, with direction from the talented Rebecca Frecknall, was how movement played a great role in transitions, and was beautiful to watch, with both actors and professional dancers seamlessly blending together. Though, at times, the music seemed a little out of place. Playing very recognisable classic music was a risk, as it always is when playing something most people have heard before, and in this case, it didn’t completely blend in, and stood out a little too much.

The actors Isis Hainsworth (Juliet), Jamie Ballard (Capulet), and Jack Riddiford (Mercutio), with an honourable mention to Miles Barrow (Benvolio) whose dancing particularly captivated me, were the stand-out actors of the production for me. With Hainsworth bringing the childlike innocence of Juliet (as, after all, she was only meant to be around 13 years old), Ballard having a notably strong presence on stage, and Riddiford being incredibly animated, making for a very memorable performance.

There were points where you would be captivated, with the beautiful dancing and interesting transitions between scenes, using physicality to express change of scene rather than doing the classic walk-off stage. However, what was an interesting choice was the amount of shouting. Whilst I understand this is a passionate tragedy, it’s more interesting to see more nuance in how anger is expressed. For a two hour long play without an interval, there were points where it didn't captivate me enough to justify no interval.

Overall, it was a stunning visual production, with some particularly stand-out performances, but some parts could have been done differently to give it some nuance and bring something new and exciting to the well-known tragedy."

- Emmanuelle

Shakespeare done in two hours. Sign me up!
- Sam

"This rendition, in line with the director’s previous stylistic choices, is very much like Shakespeare intended the play to be: a bare stage, costumes that cannot be placed in a specific period nor location and a tragedy that will make the audience reflect on the consequences of passion and hatred. This is supported by the compelling light design by Lee Curran. Frecknall innovates with gripping movement sequences, quick magnetic and stylised transitions, which serve to represent dream or nightmare-like experiences of time passing and the absurdity of the violence in this world. But the aspect in particular that stood out for me was her play with juxtaposition - a device that overlaps different realities on stage to compare and contrast them. This technique was used textually, by altering the order in which some scenes are written; spatially, by intriguing tableaus and the position of characters on stage and even by interrogating the role of the audience.

To begin with, Frecknall chose to have the whole company on stage for most of the show, observing the action developing centre stage, morphing quickly between the role of actor and spectator. This signifies to the audience that the spectators themselves play an active part in the story, they are not only bystanders - on the contrary - they are invited to reflect on their own grudge, strife, and rage and the terrible consequences that those can have in a family, a city and future generations. The spectators therefore experience for themselves the contrast between the comfort of merely watching and the call to action that the play demands.

Another bold example of juxtaposition in the play is placing the characters on stage when they are not written in the scene. Having Romeo and Juliet appear on stage during each other’s monologues shows how connected they were even apart and the mutuality of their attraction. It is intriguing to see them talking in secret about their feelings with the other actor present on stage, but I believe this peek into the characters' imagination helps the audience to identify with the humanity of their object of desire and has an impactful contrast with the tragedies to come.

In a powerful directorial move, Romeo’s killing of Tybalt was moved to interrupt Juliet’s “Gallop Apace” soliloquy. The spatial composition of Juliet placed in between the two rivals reads as if the gunshot that killed Tybalt went right through her too. Then, Romeo’s confession of Tybalt’s killing to the Friar happens at the same time as Juliet hears the devastating news from her Nurse. Having these two scenes happen side by side accentuates the suffering of the newlywed couple and how they both wrestle with their overwhelming feelings of love and grief, which is a central theme of the play.

Furthermore, the interaction between Paris and Lord and Lady Capulet was moved to happen after the wedding night and happens opposite the couple still asleep on stage. This disparity between Juliet’s desires and her duty highlights the parents' cruelty in arranging the marriage with Paris.

Finally, as the audience excruciatingly anticipates the disaster bound to occur, the director sits the actor playing Romeo in the same place where Juliet is laying in the family tomb. Hundreds of twinkling candles filling the whole stage and the back wall create a beautiful and sacred image which, alongside the hope-filled words in Romeo’s monologue, contrast with the condemned fate of the star-crossed lovers.

When complete silence fills the auditorium, and is only interrupted by woeful sniffles, Frecknall’s choice of ending the play with Juliet’s suicide is justified: it is pointless to include the final part of the play because there is no need to explain how the extreme hatred between Capulets and Montagues culminated in great devastation for all. The moral of the story is embedded all the way throughout this adaptation."

- Cristina

Romeo and Juliet is at the Almeida Theatre until Sunday 29 July.

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