I suspected as much back in May and I did indeed go back to see the RSC's current Romeo & Juliet
, likely to be my show of 2010, which started its limited London run at the Roundhouse last night. I won't review it all again because I gave it quite a detailed review at the time
. But again if you're able to and think you might go to the London or New York runs (and I recommend you do) I would say don't read that until after you've seen it because some of the more leftfield choices made in the production work best when they take you by surprise. I was meant to go with three other people this time but unfortunately penny_p
was defeated by the weather and had to give up her journey but Andy and Richard (the latter almost a Shakespeare virgin) made it and enjoyed the play.
On a second viewing the Gooldian touches are already familiar so the play's tendency to waffle (one of the reasons I'm not usually a fan, and something Richard mentioned a couple of times) becomes a bit more apparent again but it doesn't ultimately detract from how well-performed and conceived the production is. Andy commented on how authentically teenaged the title characters' attitudes are and he also liked the very clever reading of "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?" that stood out to me the first time as well. Richard singled out Noma Dumezweni's Nurse for praise and both of them spotted Capulet's extraordinarily oversized boots, if not the costume issue that's had me and aka_kelly
scratching our heads for six months (more on that in a sec.) The one thing that wasn't as good as I remembered was the scene immediately after Juliet's fake suicide, which seemed a bit slower and without the nightmarish frantic quality I remembered; but this being the first performance in this venue things might have been slightly slower overall than usual, if so I just didn't notice it elsewhere. Things that stood out more this time included Dyfan Dwyfor's camp, funny Peter and I had a clearer view of the extraordinarily surreal turn Mercutio's (Jonjo O'Neill) smutty mime of the Queen Mab speech takes. We also had more central seats than last time so could actually see Lorna Heavey's projections on the back wall; although as they're mainly of the flames that provide a visual theme to the rest of the production, I'd say you're not missing much if, like me the first time, you've got side seats from which they're not that visible. Their most effective use is at the tableau that takes us into the interval, which has since become the show's poster image.
Right from the start I'd spotted that Rupert Goold was sitting not far from us, but aware that he was at work (this being the only London preview he was presumably making sure everything was up to scratch for tonight's press night) I was loath to speak to him. As we kept passing him in the interval and then after the end of the show though, Andy and Richard said I should take the opportunity (and besides, aka_kelly
would have killed me if she found out I'd had the chance to ask him about the Apothecary's costume and didn't take it.) After a bit of panicked silence he admitted he had to try and remember why they'd done it (I got the impression it had been a spur-of-the-moment decision in rehearsals rather than one he'd been working on throughout putting the show together) but his explanation was pretty much along the lines I'd thought it was. He was actually very nice and chatty once he got started talking, very enthusiastic and I think glad to find someone who was also enthusiastic about his work. I said something about how that was the only costume we'd struggled with, because the reason for having the lovers in modern-dress and everyone else in Elizabethan costume was obvious, especially when the latter conceit is dropped at the end. He was surprisingly pleased about this and said a lot of people didn't get that reference. (Funny because we thought it was one of the more obvious themes and the final reversal only goes to make it even clearer that the adults' look represents how R&J see them, so irrelevant to their own lives that they might as well be from a different century entirely. There's even clues to this in the way some of the costumes are a bit off, like the aforementioned Capulet boots or Tybalt's neck-tattoo, as if the costumes are being imagined by teenagers who aren't entirely sure how they should
look.) He also said some interesting things about some of the ways he'd envisaged the production going that didn't quite work out that way, such as how schizophrenia was meant to be quite a significant theme and how Mercutio was almost portrayed in a very different way than ended up on stage.
Overall a fun evening then and a nice bonus of getting to have a few words with Rupert Goold (and him turning out to be very entertaining to chat to.) Romeo and Juliet
by Willliam Shakespeare is in repertory until the 1st of January at the Roundhouse, prior to the RST in Stratford in March and the Lincoln Center in New York in July.