Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare
Antic Disposition
Jermyn Street Theatre
(2008)

Production photo

Jermyn Street Theatre is luxury boutique theatre at its best. The below ground situation gives it a slightly underground edge but once you are installed to your seat you are left in no doubt that this is a theatre with style.

A simple set awaits the action with an elevated square in the centre drenched in blue lighting. The characters wear smart and contemporary clothing; the older male characters are decked in suits and heavy wool coats, the actresses also in modern apparel.

Friar Laurence delivers the prologue set against the two mighty and grieving families of the Capulets and Montagues. The feuding kicks off with Montague (Chris Courtenay) and Capulet (Geoffrey Towers) borrowing some lines from their servants in Risebero's & Horslen's pared down production.

The collective responsible for this production, Antic Disposition, prides itself in presenting classic productions of quality plays. At the same time it gives voice to and champions new acting talent.

Andrew Hayden-Smith, an experienced television actor and presenter makes his stage debut as Romeo. Taking on such a role as a novice is a brave move, and although he executes his lines without fault you cannot help but see he lacks stage experience.

In contrast Ami Sayers brings a lively exuberance to the role of Juliet. Sayers' performance is clearly the stronger of the two and she supports Hayden-Smith's Romeo well.

The Capulet masked ball where Romeo & Juliet first meet is beautifully choreographed and bathed in deep red light. The opulent splendour of the occasion is matched with a sinister edge with some of the guests taking on a devilish appearance, a reminder that the fatal turn of events is never far away from the star-cross'd lovers.

Susan Penhaglion is perfectly cast as the utterly adorable and doting Nurse. Penhaglion seems to embody the essence of this character and brings fresh humour to the role bearing a hand held fan on her return to Juliet with word of Romeo. However the biggest laugh of the night comes from a line delivered by Friar Laurence: "I hear thou must - and nothing may prorogue it / On Thursday next be married to this Count"; pun clearly intended!

Philip Correia is riveting as the powerful Mercutio and lends a sense of maverick to the characte, delivering his scenes with flourish.

The production employs the services of Keith Ducklin to focus on the fight scenes, and this investment paid off with convincing and dramatic sequences in the limited space of the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Although simple the set is very effective. Friar Laurence gives Juliet the sleeping lotion from an apothecary shelf neatly hidden behind a sliding door in the set.

Candles placed in black holes in the setting create an appropriately sombre and other-worldly atmosphere in the tomb. White silk sheets adorn the bed where the young lovers consummate their marriage.

This interpretation communicates beautifully all the smut and sexual innuendo intended by this youthful and expressive Shakespeare play.

Overall, a slick production, strong acting and great casting with each character fitting their role well.

Until 17th May

Reviewer: Eva Ritchie