Wednesday, July 6

Romeo and Juliet – Creation Theatre

I’ve written previously about the way theatre is having to adapt to the new socially-distanced normal and the creative ways that we’re seeing this being explored across the arts. Romeo and Juliet, presented by Creation Theatre in partnership with Watford Palace Theatre is the third online production I’ve reviewed for North West End UK, and the second of the Bard’s offerings in this format.

Here, the virtual audience is able to engage with a unique presentation of this classic tale – first selecting whether they want to be a Capulet or a Montague and then to some extent choosing their own experience. With a mixture of pre-filmed scenes you as an audience member have choices to make throughout the show to see if you can help the star crossed lovers escape their tragic fate. It’s a novel take on an age-old classic and I enjoyed having the freedom to go my own way and try and find our eponymous pair a happier ending. The production also ran without any technical hitches which is no mean feat, especially given the scale of the operation and the margin for error.

There are also some strong performances. Notable for me were Capulet (Graeme Rose), Benvolio (Harmony Rose Bremner), Sister Lauren (a take on Friar Lawernce depicted by Clare Humphrey) and the Nurse (Katy Stephens).  

However, stylistically the production wasn’t to my taste and despite the innovation and a pretty solid cast I didn’t find it an especially enjoyable watch. Bringing Romeo and Juliet to a small screen and offering a new experience is a huge challenge and unfortunately some of the creative decisions missed the mark for me. The action seemed to be layered so that all the actors were doing a Peep Show style piece to camera but appeared on screen at the same time during their scenes, which for me took away from the intimacy and rawness you’d normally associate with the story. Mercutio’s exit scene packs an emotional punch but I couldn’t help but think that it would have been more powerful on stage with some real interaction.

There is also a lot of screen mirroring and a techno theme running throughout with everything appearing in tints and different colours with various effects. This worked brilliantly at the Capulet’s ball but otherwise felt like a bit of an assault on the senses, especially after so long locked down in a largely 2D world! The Zoom element is also tested to its limit with all participants visible on screen during the first half of the production – which I found distracting and at times slightly uncomfortable and invasive. Overall this was an ambitious attempt to breathe new life into a classic tale but unfortunately the end result felt a bit confused and with a running time of approaching two hours wasn’t slick enough to achieve its goals.

Playing online until 23rd May 2021 – https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/

Reviewer: Zoё Meeres

Reviewed: 16th May 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★

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