With the national lockdown still upon us and theatres remaining closed, Metcalfe Gordon Productions has found a way around the restrictions with their virtual adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet.
Directed by Nick Evans, the show is set in the aftermath of the pandemic, in a world where the population has taken refuge in empty theatres. With current restrictions, CGI was used to create the virtual theatre setting, with the scenes taking place in all aspects of the venue, from the stalls to backstage, it certainly took some getting used to. After being away from a theatre for so long, I enjoyed being reacquainted with the place I’ve missed. The clever CGI set by Jamie Osbourne effectively gave the illusion of the characters interacting with each other whilst in reality; each actor was mostly filmed separately and then edited together. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to create this virtual world, yet despite a few moments of clunky editing, the CGI was relatively smooth and I quickly felt immersed within the show.
Starring Olivier Award winner Sam Tutty as Romeo and Emily Redpath as Juliet, the pair were certainly not short on chemistry. Despite the need for social distancing, their brilliant performance as the star-crossed lovers overcomes this challenge. The iconic scene where Romeo secretly visits Juliet was depicted with Juliet in a theatre box looking down on Romeo below was a great use of setting and worked well for the scene. From besotted with his Juliet to his inner turmoil at their forbidden romance, Tutty’s Romeo was as charming as it was heartbreaking. As for Redpath as Juliet, the all-consuming yet tragically naïve nature of the character shines through in her passionate performance. As the love story changes from romance to tragedy, both Tutty and Redpath are consistently engaging throughout.
Alongside the main characters, the rest of the cast is just as enthralling. A special mention has to go to Lucy Tregear as the Nurse, delivering the perfect amount of comic relief especially when she gives Romeo a heartfelt lecture about Juliet without being too dramatic. I also thoroughly enjoyed Brandon Bassir as Mercutio. A fine mix of wit, charm and hot-headedness, Bassir brings all the swagger needed for this legendary bad boy character.
A bold choice that certainly stepped away from the classic was one actor playing both Capulet parents (Helen Anker) and Marc Ozall playing the Montague’s. Both performers lived up to the challenge of playing two roles and I was impressed with both of their portrayals. Anker in particular, gave a stand out performance, with a layer of complexity that I have not yet encountered in many other performances.
Overall, the sound effects, lighting, editing and acting somehow create a sense of realism in this virtual re-imagining of the classic play that seems almost impossible within the current climate. The production not only effectively depicts the tragic love story, but also opens up the possibilities of how a show can adapt and grow in these trying times. If theatre can be created in such an unconventional and creative way yet still have entertainment value, who knows what future theatre could be. I for one am looking forward to finding out.
Playing from the 13th – 27th February, tickets to Romeo and Juliet are on sale now and can be purchased here: https://www.romeojuliet2021.com
Reviewer: Gemma Prince
Reviewed: 11th February 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★