Sunday, 5 June 2011

Romeo and Juliet at the Kenton Theatre, Henley on Thames, 4th June 2011.

In Romeo and Juliet the young teen protagonists fall in love yet their rivalling families -the Capulets and Montagues, impede their progress. It is their tragic deaths, and not the power of their love, that overturns the feud. Audiences never seem to tire of it.

Troika's inspirational first production, under Rachel Johnson's direction, has a joyous atmosphere with its surface gloss of masked balls and bawdy street scenes, yet eclipsed by the omnipresent spectre of death. We are, after all, aware, of the impending tragedy from the very outset.

In addition, though audiences marvel at the stately poetry of love, proffered by the leads they often overlook those minor parts that contain suitable comedy or eloquent gravitas. Zakk Robinson's bawdy, unreserved Mercutio is a case in point. Whilst he may only be a prop to the flaccid impetuous Romeo [Nathan Grassi] in pursuit of his Juliet [Camilla Clarke] he rhythmically and humorously keeps the party alive.

On the other hand, we still need some solemnity and we get this in the form of the dour heads of the respective houses - Lords Capulet (James Studds) and Montague (Andrew Whiffin). The play's minimalist staging is perfectly suited to the restrictive, yet inspiring, intimacy of the Kenton Theatre. Economy of space comes to the fore in the credible and sometimes unsettling street fights, expertly choreographed by Tom Bateman. Of the three productions, I have seen over the last couple of years this came over as the most adventurous and innovative with dance routines set to an inspiring contemporary soundscape.

It is overall a sensual and erotic reading and luckily untainted by the judicious editing that brought it down to a running time of just over two hours. In a recent interview with online magazine Theatrepunk, the founders of Troika outlined their shared vision for the company, a vision of creating 'high quality theatre that will challenge, excite, stir and entertain audiences'. Based on this first outing one feels that they may be on the right path to attaining their goal.

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