Shakespeare Society’s second term production of Romeo and Juliet was a pleasurable way to spend a Monday night. Set against the backdrop of the Irish Troubles, the play – conceptualised by Matt Bird and assistant directed by George Collins – brought to life Shakespeare’s famous love story.
Niamh Smith and Sophie Barton played the eponymous couple, Smith acting with sensitivity and power throughout, notably in the tender reunion scene between the pair. The take on their love was deliberately sweet and chaste – not quite to my liking as it lacked some of the desperate irrational passion that drives them to their eventual deaths – however, they captured the youthful innocence of their love. Some of these tender moments sadly were swallowed up by the sound void that is the SU. Special mention should go to Erin Offord, who stood out as the vibrant brash Mercutio, stealing the spotlight in every scene she was in with her assured physicality. Lily French too deserves a mention for the light comic relief she brought to the play as both the Nurse and Friar Lawrence. A personal favourite moment in the show was the interaction between the Nurse, Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio when the Nurse delivers Juliet’s first message – the mix of laddish joking from the Montagues and Romeo’s thoughtful delivery was charming to watch.
Whilst overall a successful rendering of the play, more could have been done in aiding the concept of the Irish troubles – most notably the lack of Irish accents as part of characterisation – however the references to the background were subtle and played it safe. The costume, the work of Abel Fenwick, was the most overt nod to the Irish concept and served to reinforce this throughout. The traverse staging allowed the cast to showcase their talent and the interiority of the play. The stage was permanently set with 3 tables and chairs littered with red solo cups that hint at a pub setting – this was clear and worked to the advantage of the actors in its simplicity, although it lacked some finesse (in setting the scene).
All in all, Shakespeare society’s Romeo and Juliet did justice to Shakespeare’s famous work.