Ginger Hibiscus | Romeo and Juliet Temple Church Review from Antic Disposition
Review by Ginger Hibiscus of Romeo and Juliet at Temple Church in London. Production from Antic Disposition with cast includes Bryony Tebbutt, Dylan Kennedy, Stefan Majcek, James Murfill.
Romeo Juliet Temple Antic Disposition Review
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01 Sep REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet at Temple Church

Romeo and Juliet. A play that’s so culturally ingrained that phrases first heard in the play, like being sent on a “wild goose chase,” are still inextricable from our vocabulary nearly 500 years later. As a piece of literature or drama, the tragedy of Shakespeare’s “star-crossed lovers” is just as familiar as his additions to the English language.

In case you’ve been living on the moon, the play is the tale of a young man called Romeo, who meets and falls in love with (wait for it) a young woman named Juliet. But their love is forbidden by heredity as their families are “loathed enemies,” and Juliet has been promised to the incredibly eligible yet hideously arrogant Paris. In a heartbreaking turn of events involving an apothecary, a Friar, and an undelivered letter, the lovers each commit suicide in the belief that the other is dead, after professing their eternal love in mesmerisingly beautiful ways.

In the script, the audience is asked at the outset not to contemplate what the fate of the Romeo and Juliet will be, but rather to consider how it comes to pass. And, “how it comes to pass,” is precisely what this production excels at. We join as the violent storm of civil unrest explodes and rumbles away, followed closely by torrential downpours that clear the emotional humidity hanging in the air. But like lightning might strike a tree, just for it to fall down weeks later, the full effects of the brawl are yet to be felt. The metaphor is spectacular in its’ execution; visually stunning and enthralling, moments of deafening silence sharpen the senses and draw the audience in.

The gorgeous visuals aren’t unique to the opening scene. They pervade the show, with a magical theatrical moment created in the ball at the Capulet Mansion. Guests swirl elegantly, faces obscured by beautiful Venetian masks; a surreal yet enchanting vision. Similarly we literally sit in the crypt with Romeo and Juliet at the end of the play, physically surrounded by real tombs of fallen Knights, compounding the tragedy and making it feel very real.

Also making us relate to the show in an unusual way, the fascinating decision to have the characters, with their Elizabethan morals, values and diction, wearing 21st century garments works remarkably well; Romeo, with his pale blue shirt and cream chinos could have stepped straight out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue, preppy yet uncontrived, against Paris who looks to be prepared for Henley Regatta. It grasps at the preconceptions we rightly or wrongly have of people based on their attire, twists them and stamps them on the characters. Rabble-raiser Mercutio, in his long leather jacket; the kind and wise nurse, in floaty shawls and oversized spectacles; no-nonsense Mr and Mrs Capulet, suited for business. It creates just one more dimension, a dimension that makes watching Shakespeare just a little bit easier.

The cast do justice to the brilliant design and production, most notably James Murfitt as a strong and tentatively camp Mercutio (another of these fascinating dimensions). His commanding presence is ideal for the character, and contrasts starkly with Romeo (Dylan Kennedy), who is gentler, more childlike, stroppy and idealistic. Stefan Majczak is outstanding as Benvolio, and Bryony Tebbutt’s beautiful Juliet is a force to be reckoned with.

Romeo and Juliet at Temple Church is a stunning production in a stunning setting, and is probably my favourite ever Romeo and Juliet. Catch it quickly!

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