Review: Romeo and Juliet @ Redgrave Theatre ★★★★ ★


By Milan Perera, Second Year English

At the face of a plethora of sardonic and reductive avant-garde productions of this evergreen Shakespearean Tragedy, the latest production by the upcoming talent of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is nothing short of a pleasant surprise.

It has been the prototype for the idiom of ‘boy meets girl’ for the last 400 years. The sheer number of productions each year, not just theatre, but on film too, is a testimony to the enduring legacy of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

The iconoclastic productions in recent years stood out in defiance against the classic love story motif which, according to them, has been done to a ‘kitsch.’ The current rendition by the students at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic is a bold attempt to salvage and sanctify those romantic ideals.

Taylor Uttley and Tanvi Virmani played the titular roles of Romeo and Juliet with panache and finesse. The on-stage chemistry between Uttley and Virmani was immediate and spontaneous as they breathed life into the famed love-match. The monologues and dialogues of the pair were filled with heartfelt ardour. The performances of the titular duo were further embellished with tender moments which Uttley and Virmani exacted to a tee.

The famous balcony scene was delivered with aplomb, with all the naïveté associated with young lovers. The carefully selected cast commanded the undivided attention of the audience with their verve and versatility.

Patrick  McAndrew shone as the amiable clergyman, Friar Lawrence, who is caught up in a delicate situation as he tries to steer all parties concerned through a challenging set of circumstances.

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Chiara Lari brings an energetic and playful rendition to Mercutio, as the best friend of Romeo. While Alex Crook plays one stern and angry Lord Capulet, who tries to make the right decisions for his daughter.

It is hardly a saccharine dripping tale of doomed love. The director Aaron Parsons is set to highlight the wider societal ramifications of organised violence. This is not a case of standing in an ivory tower and preaching to the masses. Parsons has witnessed, what he calls, ‘the use of violence as a means of communication’ while growing up in neighbourhoods ridden with crime and violence. A proud alumni of Bristol Old Vic, Parsons infuses these societal motifs adeptly into the production without ever sounding didactic.

The costumes and set design are executed with style and empathy. The set designer Aldo Vazquez, who is also an alumni of the Bristol Old Vic, achieved the rare juxtaposition of bringing elements of both 16th century Verona and the present day to the set. This seamless continuity is pivotal as the issues elaborated in this tale of love, loss, violence, gang warfare and death are not confined to one particular historical epoch.

With her sumptuous set of costumes, Ruby Nex brings an added layer of flair to this stellar cast. Dance routines and combat scenes are drilled to perfection without ever looking mechanical. The standing ovation from a thoroughly enthralled audience at the end was a seal of approval for this spirited production.

Featured Image: Epigram

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