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Romeo and Juliet

4 starsArts Centre Studo, Theatre
Run ended
Reviewed by Elijah James

I’ve always admired the Shakespearean Elizabethans: those English Renaissance theatre troupes who ran through a play of this magnitude for the very first time. It’s a most impressive feat, considering the complexity of the language. Yet it’s only by today's standards that we feel perplexed by Shakespearean English; ask an Elizabethan a question in Orwellian, and they'd be just as confused. The Shakespearean Elizabethans: here I find myself cast back to the same era, as the Smooth Faced Gentlemen run through the essentials of Romeo and Juliet in just over an hour.

I wonder whether it's possible to see a bad Shakespeare play? Is it possible to distinguish the dimension of Shakespeare from any other? Would any other rose smell as sweet? Forsooth: thy wit is a very bitter sweeting, it is a most sharp sauce. It's all part of the preservation of tradition. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Only in Romeo & Juliet, the irreconcilable differences between their two respective houses, Montagues and Capulets, lead to the lovers’ undoing and the death of their mutual love.

It's an all-female version of fair Verona, a reality that must give way to the suspension of disbelief from the outset. A seven-strong cast are taking on at least three roles each, and sometimes it does become rather difficult to differentiate them. Francesca Binefa does well here, adopting a foreign accent for the role of the nurse. The rest of the cast - Carmina Bernhardt, Kayleigh Hobson, Carly Jukes, Ashlea Kaye, Henri Merriam, Leila Sykes - use the dialogue of their respective parts to bring ownership and uniqueness to their different characters.

Through the course of the play we are taken through tense moments between the warring houses; treated to sophisticated witticisms, and the intimacies of the two lovers. It's an edited version of the script, with some of the lesser characters removed to keep the play at a digestible length. It's a very genuine performance; Kaye, who plays Juliet, conjures up tears at the moment she is most distraught, inviting us to be moved by sympathy. Each actress has mastered her lines and conveys every one of them with the true appreciation for the context within which they were written.

Death is a ubiquitous motif in the works of Shakespeare, and it features at the climax of Romeo & Juliet. The Three’s Company / Smooth Faced Gentlemen troupe bustle around hastily, enjoying their hermaphrodite roles and relishing in the language of our greatest playwright. Every reenactment of a Shakespeare play is an epoch in itself; this one was a thoroughly enjoyable rendition.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.