Thursday, 22 July 2010
Creation Theatre's Romeo and Juliet, Said Business School Amphitheatre, Oxford.
It must be quite difficult for a company to breathe originality into such a well-known play as Romeo and Juliet as audiences will be familiar with the 'pair of star-crossed lovers'. No slackers in addressing such issues, Creation Theatre have certainly achieved 'originality' in this tremendously exciting production.
Creation's approach to their raw material is to imbue it with extreme physicality and energy. From the very outset, Director Charlotte Conquest's production is overwrought with a sinuous anxious power that animates the Capulet and Montague rivalry that plagues the streets of Verona. Even the masked ball takes on a Dionysian significance creating, as actor Gordon Cooper said, a 'sort of tribal, ritualistic style party'.
However, as we are aware, the omnipresent spectre of death haunts 'fair Verona'.
The prologue has already defined the action and, as an audience, we know that Romeo (Patrick Myles) and Juliet (Amy Noble) cannot escape their fate. It concentrates the mind on the rather more appealing aspects of the drama.
Although some may be aroused at the stately poetry of love, there is still energy within supporting roles that adds a succinct brand of mocking comment. Benjamin Askew's bawdy, effusive Mercutio and Nicky Goldie's garrulous Nurse are perfect examples and are paramount in keeping the drama descending into maudlin romance. Mercutio's street scenes are both sensuous and energetic, every action bursting with innuendo that constantly mocks notions of romantic love. When Mercutio dies, we sorely miss his presence.
The Business School's amphitheatre superbly complemented Matt Eaton's sound designs whilst Ashley Bale's lighting added a tingling spectral unearthliness to this outdoor production. As a venue, it far surpasses Oxford Castle where a recent Twelfth Night was marred by indifferent acoustics and languid exits and entrances.
Finally, I have to admit that having seen so many mundane productions recently I was losing the will to live. However, Creation Theatre has now restored my faith in live drama and I can only look forward with immense anticipation to their future work.