Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Shakespeare's young lovers — in both style and substance

Shakespeare's young lovers — in both style and substance

Romeo + Juliet | South Hill Park, Bracknell | Wednesday, February 7

HAVING seen Joe Malyan’s production Macbeth at South Hill Park almost exactly a year ago, we had high expectations for Romeo + Juliet, and were pleased to find that they were met.

Once more illustrated with the haunting, ethereal music of composer George Jennings, who somehow captures the Shakespearean moods and themes yet makes them all his own, the ensemble singing was a delight and everything was just so.

This was augmented by the setting, the costumes and the audacious use of props which is handled so well by the team at South Hill Park.

Ladders were attached, planks became makeshift top stairs, chandeliers were clipped together and hoisted up in front of our eyes, all with a fluid and flexible feel, creating the ad hoc ambience of a tatty, ragged landscape where two prominent families have long been at war. Into this setting stepped Romeo (Jack Fairey) and Juliet (Laura Hannawin), taking on the not inconsiderable mantle of Shakespeare’s doomed young lovers. They carried off the tale with both style and substance — no mean feat considering the exposition — with the help of a strong cast, all illuminating the Elizabethan lexicon and making it feel both contemporary and timeless.

Having seen Laura portray ghastly misadventure and the twisted love and loyalty of Lady Macbeth, here she brought us a fresh-faced Juliet, optimistic having found love, despite it being from the “wrong” family.

Jack, meanwhile, breathed new life into a lovelorn, defiant and utterly believable Romeo. Their recreation of the stillness of love at first sight among a lively Verona dance was breathtaking, in addition to being a deft tableau piece from all involved.

This production was a moving meditation, bringing us Shakespeare’s treatise on the nature of predestination, and to what extent we are the captain of our soul.

Luke Burton provided valiant support as the friar with good intentions and a sorry outcome. And hats off to Max Puplett, whose Mercutio seemed to have come straight from the Globe Theatre.

As we held our breaths for the final outcome, the devastation was writ large and perfectly enacted — vials, daggers and all.

You kind of pinched yourself that this was taking place in little old Bracknell, and one performing arts veteran was heard to remark that she couldn’t find fault.

With Macbeth set to make a return in spring 2019 — with many portents on the horizon — long may these spectacular works continue.

Review: Natalie Aldred

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