Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold

Samuel Valentine as Romeo and Cassie Layton as Juliet Credit: Helena Miscioscia
Steffan Donnelly as Mercutio Credit: Helena Miscioscia
Matt Doherty as Tybalt and Steffan Donnelly as Mercutio Credit: Helena Miscioscia

The theatre-going public of North Wales experienced a Shakespearean treat as The Globe Theatre tour kicked off in Clwyd Theatr Cymru.

This is also Dominic Dromgoole’s last touring production for The Globe as he leaves his post next year after ten years as Artistic Director and he is supported on this tour as director by Tim Hoare.

The true magic of a tour such as this is revealed as soon as you enter the Anthony Hopkins Theatre which has been transformed into an Elizabethan-style booth stage for the production. Whilst it is always a privilege to see how a director presents one of Shakespeare’s plays and what setting they choose, the production tonight was truly a fantastic opportunity to experience theatre in the style of the period.

Thus the ‘travelling players’ wander round, joking with the audience before the performance starts with a song and dance that would have been the signal that the play was about to begin in Shakespeare’s time. With the house lights remaining on and no stage effects bar minimal lighting, the experience was to be a truly authentic one. At least we had a roof to protect us from the elements and nothing was thrown at the players apart from rapturous applause.

With a production such as this, it is possible to truly appreciate the skill of the actors involved as the success of the performance is due to how well they manipulate the imagination of the audience in the absence of any change of scenery. This company does so magnificently, from the instant the opening jig gives way to the fight between the Montagues and Capulets.

There are a number of outstanding performances and among them is the returning man of North Wales Steffan Donnelly, who is superb as the Prince, Apothecary and particularly Mercutio. It was fitting that there were a number of school parties in the audience who were held spellbound as the RSC's Greg Doran last year described the character of Mercutio as being the best one with which to engage a teenager with Shakespeare.

The requirement for the cast to play more than one role is demanding and well demonstrated by Tom Kanji who flits between his excellent Friar Laurence and Benvolio in literally the blink of an eye. Matt Doherty excels in the prominent roles of Paris and Tybalt as well as Montague and his dim-witted Peter has the audience in stitches.

Steven Elder is superb as Capulet and his tirade at Juliet when she refuses to marry Paris is something to behold. Alongside him, Hannah McPake is a brilliantly elusive Lady Capulet, ensuring the true emotions of her character are often difficult to define while Sarah Higgins’s Scottish Nurse is a great hit with the audience.

The two lead roles are beautifully portrayed by Samuel Valentine and Cassie Layton. The former’s Romeo is a vibrant yet appealing portrayal, while the latter’s Juliet reveals a steely determination beneath a youthful veneer. The pair are well matched and the on-stage chemistry is tangible between them.

Special mention is also due to Kevin McCurdy for some outstanding fight scenes and Martin McKellan for voice and dialect which further enhanced the production by bringing us character accents from Yorkshire, Scotland and the north east.

This Globe production of Romeo and Juliet, which will play to packed houses every night in Mold and doubtless every other venue, is an authentic and captivating Shakespearean experience that should not be missed if the opportunity becomes available.

Reviewer: Dave Jennings

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