|"An unpretentious but affecting production"|
by Thomas Larque on 02/02/12
The Broadway Studio's Romeo and Juliet is a good plain fringe production--in a small space, with limited resources--but it often does what it sets out to do rather well.
The backbone of this production is an engaging performance of Juliet by Rachel Winters, whose youthful appearance and small stature successfully suggest a childish innocence in early scenes--adrift in her new dress for the Capulet party--but beneath the surface is a steely determination, which becomes increasingly apparent as Juliet suffers and grows throughout the play. Karl Brown's Romeo, by contrast, remains the unworldly romantic--in love with love--his adolescent idealism battered but never entirely destroyed by tragic events. They seem an odd match, but from the touchingly staged moment of their first meeting--beginning with the tentative touch of their fingertips--they are convincingly swept away by their feelings.
Some of the supporting roles are more successful than others. William Salicath gives an authoritative performance in the limited role of the Prince, while James Law and Emma Tapley as the Capulets capture the conflicted pride that drives them to love and abuse their daughter. Ben Riddle's Mercutio does not steal his scenes, as some Mercutios can--which is not entirely a bad thing--and Sophie Doherty's middle aged Nurse could be more strongly characterised.
The staging is simple, but often effective. Juliet's appearance at the small window, her face aglow, gives life to Romeo's lines about the East and Juliet as the sun. The Capulet party is evoked by a few strings of bunting and some fancy dress. The unfolding and wrapping of sheets gives a symbolic weight to Juliet's two wedding beds (one of which becomes her death bed), and the ominous reappearance of the murdered Tybalt and Mercutio as tragedy looms is cleverly done.
Overall this is an unpretentious, but affecting production. Well worth a visit.