Review: Gone Rogue present Romeo and Juliet

Going traditional is a respectable decision that could have easily backfired if not for the engaging spectacle and enjoyable performances of the cast. The vastness of the prose might drag […]


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Going traditional is a respectable decision that could have easily backfired if not for the engaging spectacle and enjoyable performances of the cast. The vastness of the prose might drag at times, particularly if you’re a newcomer to Shakespeare, but overall this is a fun, rambunctious production of Romeo and Juliet that didn’t sell its soul, is entertaining, and that had a certain dignity. Give it a go.

Everyone knows Romeo and Juliet, and any director who seeks to take up the mantle of this production immediately has to contend with the fact that their audience is about to sit down for a story with such familiar narrative beats that children, their mothers, and bizarre lifeforms on the other side of the cosmos can surely recount it.

This question of revisionism, or ‘should we add guns, motorbikes and skinny-jeans?’ is all too often touted as excuse for circumnavigating the sighs of GCSE students when their teachers announce ‘today we are doing Shakespeare!’. But director Jamie Hemingway seems to understand this as misnomer, instead shirking automatic weapons, graffiti and experimentation for the traditional; tight leggings, elaborate frocks and even Shakespeare’s elegant prose – and it worked.

Credit: David Aggus

Credit: David Aggus

‘Two households, both alike in dignity…’ A thin haze clouded the dark Nuffield stage and a suitably solemn soundtrack rose to accompany the prologue, a score courtesy of Thomas Joy, who displayed pretty credible and apt creative execution in his scoring for the production with tracks that successfully fostered that eerie sense of impending disaster that is central to Romeo and Juliet.

Later, a slightly overwrought musical sting drowned out a line or two in the balcony sequence, but besides that the score was utilised appropriately to draw the play towards its inevitable poisonings and stabbings.

Romeo and Juliet 2

Credit: David Aggus

Visual spectacle abound – expect familiar characters in intricate period dress, brilliantly adorned in all manner of elaborate, bright coloured outfits, doublets and fancy 14th century stylings that created a quality of display uncommon for amateur level productions.

The set itself; a fair Verona, somewhat simplistic in compare, but appropriate, and not contrived by too many moving parts. What little they had was enhanced creatively with lighting, silhouette and shadow, notable in the church and mausoleum sequences. Despite a few oddities with the stage sometimes remaining lit during transitions, the technical elements worked, and worked well.

Romeo and Juliet 3

Credit: David Aggus

If the Romeo and Juliet sequence of Hot Fuzz (2007) springs to mind when you think Shakespeare, worry not. The cast performed fiercely. I found that I did not want to punch Romeo, which is in itself a triumph. Relative newcomer Rhys Hillian demonstrated a maturity of talent beyond his years; evading the trappings of being too mushy-gushy, despite the mouthful of delivery the Shakespearian prose required of him. Best when irate, he warmed particularly into the second half, and was a commendable and effective lover-boy to our peppy Juliet (Sarah Divall). Sarah handled her lines beautifully, animated and lithe, she portrayed convincingly a wide-eyed obsessive youth in the throng of love.

Romeo and Juliet 6

Credit: David Aggus

The infamous Mercutio (Tara Gilmore) was boss, and my favourite; this time a lady, (along with Tybalt – Anita Thomson) Gilmore slung innuendo and cavorted about the stage like a pro. The quirky, bumbling comic relief of Chris Walker’s Peter will make you laugh, whilst Robin Johnson’s Prince and particularly Sam Dobson’s Capulet flexed nuts in authoritative roles.

Amy Fitzgibbon’s Nurse provided a refreshing amount of balance and warmth to the production with a few well-placed gags, and indeed the fight sequences possessed an impressive sense of physicality. A two-hour rendition of Romeo and Juliet that won’t make you consider suicide.

Romeo and Juliet 5

Credit: David Aggus

Romeo and Juliet is on for its final night tonight, what better to do on Valentine’s Day? Tickets are available here.

Have you seen a Gone Rogue play? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!