Thursday, 18 October 2018

Young lovers between rock and a hard place

ALL eyes are on The Watermill at Bagnor as Paul Hart directs his first production there since becoming its artistic director.

ALL eyes are on The Watermill at Bagnor as Paul Hart directs his first production there since becoming its artistic director.

He has chosen Shakespeare’s

Romeo and Juliet
in a young and energetic production that presents challenges for both the players and the audience.

Challenges for the players because it is a full-on and demanding play that requires great depths of emotion and expertise from its cast — and challenges for the audience because Hart has made some rather extraordinary casting choices that require intelligence and imagination from them.

The accent is on youth, but when Juliet’s parents look rather younger than Juliet herself and a rather androgynous Friar Laurence is sometimes referred to as “he” and sometimes as “she”, the audience can be forgiven for allowing a small question of credibility to creep into its thinking.

But it also has to be said that the direction is stunningly good, and to achieve such effect on such a small stage is no mean feat.

It is also an unusually musical production although not unusual for the Watermill, which has a deservedly good reputation for making the most of actor/musicians with great music composed and played by Johnny Flynn and the members of the cast that added enormously to the atmosphere and success of the production.

The background of rock music sets the scene perfectly for this tale of teenage romance with all the pressures and conflicts between the generations that Shakespeare conveys.

Romeo and Juliet are motivated by their intense love for each other, and perhaps common sense flies out of the window. Juliet makes her choices, and the ensuing tragedy is heartbreaking. Given the relative inexperience of the young cast there are some very good performances — and some that could be described as a little shallow.

The nurse is always a gem of a part, and Lauryn Redding certainly stole the show with a fine performance that hit just the right note of delicately balanced comedy without falling prey to the temptation to play everything for laughs.

It’s also impossible to overlook the work of fight director Ian McCracken and movement director Tom Jackson Greaves. Their work brought tension and spectacle to the telling of a familiar story that brought it a cut above the rest.

Until Saturday, April 2.

Mary Scriven

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