Home / Drama / Romeo and Juliet – Nuffield Theatre Southampton

Romeo and Juliet – Nuffield Theatre Southampton

Author: William Shakespeare

Director: Robert Icke

Reviewer: Ann Bawtree

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The academic approach to Shakespeare maintains that his plays cannot be enjoyed to the full unless the text is well studied, learnt, worked over and thoroughly pulled to pieces first. There is still many a playgoer who would not dream of attending a production without at least reading through the script beforehand. However a large part of the general population will happily go to see “Romeo and Juliet” knowing little more than that the play is a story of young love that does not end happily ever after. How to cater for this majority?

One way would be to speak the lines with slow and careful articulation, labouring to make every syllable audible, in which case the play would take about five hours and, in the comfortable seats of the Nuffield, most of the audience would be asleep. The other way is to allow the torrents of speech to flow, as did the Headlong Theatre Company, and let the actions speak the plot.

Fortunately the cast’s acting is very good and the characters are painted loud and clear. In the first half it is hard to find sympathy for the silly boys who pick fights over nothing, just as we unfortunately read of in the papers to this day. Romeo is a callow youth, at first head over heels in love with one young woman and next day falling for what can only be described as a slip of a girl and planning to abduct her from her father’s house. In this century he would be up before the courts, but in earlier days when life was short you had to grow up quickly and grab what came your way.

The set, by Helen Goddard, is sparse but adaptable. At the back of the stage two side staircases lead up to a platform in a heavy frame. Some scenes take place up there, almost simultaneously with those on the main stage. When not in use it becomes a huge digital clock marking the passage of time. This is sometimes broken into by flashback scenes, heralded by loud explosions and brilliant lights, the purpose of which remained largely a mystery. Something subtle was going on there. Possibly some explanatory note in the programme would have helped, but if something needs explaining maybe it should not be done.

In the second half it is easier to get a grip on the characters. Romeo (Daniel Boyd) turns out to be a young man of some honour and is believable as Juliet’s soul mate. Juliet (Catrin Stewart) captures the characteristics of a very young girl caught between adolescence and adulthood, and can change from delightful young woman to spoilt child in an instant and still make us love her. She suffers from a despotic father, Capulet, played by Keith Bartlett, whose apoplectic rage at his daughter’s disobedience makes one fear for his blood pressure. He so misunderstands her as to be completely taken in by her later apparent complicity. His wife, Caroline Faber, is so frightened of him she cannot be a proper mother to Juliet whilst the excellent Brigid Zengeni as the Nurse portrays the often emotionally precarious relationship of a childminder and her charge. These portrayals of character are what make Shakespeare so relevant to life in any century, more so than any change to modern dress or use of rock music.

Runs: Until 18 February 2012 and then tours nationally

About The Public Reviews

The Public Reviews was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.
  • Mr O

    Wonderful production. Innovative, fresh, brings some great new twists turns and interpretations to the text.

    The cast was also excellent. Daniel Boyd as Romeo occasionally lacked a little clarity on the verse in the early stages, but a very genuine believable performance.

    Catrin Stewart gave a well nuanced performance, again highly believable, with great intensity and charm.

    The supporting players in the ensemble were also well chosen, with several deserving special mention.

    Brigid Zengeni’s nurse was perfectly pitched, with a refreshing over familiarity and exuberance that comes with an appreciation of the character’s special place within the family yet likely lower class background.

    Stephen Fewell’s apothecary scene was handled in an interesting way, and with great intensity.

    Tom Motherside’s Mercutio was stunning, and he stole every scene he appeared with. Tom Motherside is clearly one to watch, I expect him to have a glittering career on stage and screen, and would look to see what productions he is appearing in in future. I have only seen him in this so far, but have since read excellent reviews of his Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, so Tom clearly has range.

    Keith Bartlett was marvellous as Capulet, highly convincing, and it was great to se the different sides of the character in the party scene and in his interactions with Juliet and Lady Capulet.

    Lady Capulet was also excellent. Even when whispering, every word of the verse she spoke was piercingly clear. A marvellous example for the younger players in how to speak the verse effectively (not that the younger players were poor)

    I was bowled over by the interpretation. There were many small delightful touches. Capulet’s line to “turn up the tables” subtly and deliciously interpreted as a direction to the DJ offstage to turn up the volume on the record decks – which would have been easily missed if you were not concentrating on the verse. The play within a play use of the upper stage for bringing us multiple locations, the sense of time, rushing onward, the “sliding doors” feeling to the production, it really felt like a Headlong production again, after the slightly disappointing Midsummer Night’s Dream the year before under the direction of Natalie Abrahami.

    Robert Icke has done an excellent job as director, and also well done to Helen Goddard and the rest of the creative team.

    I hope to see Headlong do many more co-productions with the Nuffield Theatre. I can honestly say that of any company in England today, I would want to see anything Headlong puts on, as they have brought me some of my most memorable theatrical experiences in the past ten years.

  • Mr O

    Please publish this comment instead, apologies for the earlier typos:

    Well, having seen this production, I found it stunning and engaging. By far the best Romeo and Juliet I have seen across a number of productions.

    The production was fresh and brought new insights into the verse. The contemporary “Sliding Doors” feel to the production brought out the aspects of chance and fate beautifully.

    The young casting emphasised the intensity of youth, quick to love, fickle, selfish, and hot headed
    An extraordinarily good production. Innovative, fresh, brings some great new twists turns and interpretations to the text.
    The cast was also excellent. Daniel Boyd as Romeo occasionally lacked a little clarity on the verse in the early stages, but a very genuine believable performance.
    Catrin Stewart gave a well-nuanced performance, again highly believable, with great intensity and charm.
    The supporting players in the ensemble were also well chosen, with several deserving special mention.
    Brigid Zengeni’s nurse was perfectly pitched, with a refreshing over familiarity and exuberance that comes with an appreciation of the character’s special place within the family yet likely lower class background.
    Stephen Fewell’s apothecary scene was handled in an interesting way, and with great intensity.
    Tom Mothersdale’s Mercutio was stunning, and he stole every scene he appeared with. Tom Mothersdale is clearly one to watch, I expect him to have a glittering career on stage and screen, and would look to see what productions he is appearing in future. I have only seen him in this so far, but have since read excellent reviews of his Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, so Tom clearly has range.
    Keith Bartlett was marvellous as Capulet, highly convincing, and it was great to se the different sides of the character in the party scene and in his interactions with Juliet and Lady Capulet.
    Lady Capulet was also excellent. Even when whispering, every word of the verse she spoke was piercingly clear. A marvellous example for the younger players in how to speak the verse effectively (not that the younger players were poor)
    I was bowled over by the interpretation. There were many small delightful touches. Capulet’s line to “turn up the tables” subtly and deliciously interpreted as a direction to the DJ offstage to turn up the volume on the record decks – which would have been easily missed if you were not concentrating on the verse. The play within a play use of the upper stage for bringing us multiple locations, the sense of time, rushing onward, the “sliding doors” feeling to the production, it really felt like a Headlong production again, after the slightly disappointing Midsummer Night’s Dream the year before under the direction of Natalie Abrahami.
    Robert Icke has done an excellent job as director, and also well done to Helen Goddard and the rest of the creative team.
    I hope to see Headlong do many more co-productions with the Nuffield Theatre. I can honestly say that of any company in England today, I would want to see anything Headlong puts on, as they have brought me some of my most memorable theatrical experiences in the past ten years.