Antic Disposition's haunting production of William Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', running until 7th September 2014
Romeo & Juliet at Temple Church
Directed by: Ben Horslen
Starring: Dylan Kennedy (Romeo) and Bryony Tebbutt (Juliet) with Russell Anthony (Friar Laurence), Andrew Bolton (Capulet), Chris Courtenay (Escalus), Helen Evans (Nurse), Pamela Hall (Lady Capulet), Alex Hooper (Paris), Jack Joseph (Tybalt/Friar John), Stefan Majczak (Benvolio), James Murfitt (Mercutio/Watchman) and James Pellow (Montague/Apothecary)
Antic Disposition returns to the City with Shakespeare’s tragic story of two young star-crossed lovers. TempleChurch provides the perfect setting for Verona’s legendary early 14th century Renaissance tale of love, feuding and death. Built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar and consecrated in 1185, Temple Church is an architectural gem, secreted away in a quiet courtyard between Fleet Street and the Thames. The ghostly effigies of knights including William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (d. 1219) and ornate stained glass windows, provides a naturally spiritual home to such an ethereal production. I am particularly interested to read that the first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ took place in Middle Temple Hall in 1602.
‘Romeo and Juliet’ is beautifully staged in the circular ‘Round’ setting- the oldest part of the church. Right from when you walk in through the grand entrance the mellifluous music by composer James Burrows pours over the senses and provides a suitably romantic, ghostly touch to this haunting production. Similarly, albeit depending on whether you watch the evening performance or the Sunday matinee, the natural daytime lighting streams in through the glass ceiling above the stage, providing a spotlight on the actors. Tom Boucher (Lighting Designer) creates an evenly, subtly balanced mystical edge with clever use of hazy blues and raging red for the party scene and as the production skips along the lighting becomes much more dramatic.
Director Ben Horslen together with Director/Designer John Risebero have made use of every available inch of the large, imposing space to give the illusion of being in the Capulet’s house or outside in the ancient streets of Verona. Medieval dress has been replaced with modern day city suits, trilby hats, leather jackets and jeans, which helps bring the story home, particularly to a younger generation, in particular to office workers.
Bryony Tebbutt gives a heavenly performance in her role as Juliet, depicting her as sprightly dreamlike figure whose emotions are entrenched in her forbidden union with Romeo. There’s a mania to Tebbutt’s characterisation of Juliet – one minute thoughtful and the next she is jumping up and down with enthusiasm or torn to shreds by loss and heartbreak. Tebbutt’s portrayal of Juliet in the final denouement is particularly gripping and the audience was in tears. This is seriously powerful, heady, intense theatre and you are really drawn into Juliet’s dark world, seeing her being used as a pawn between the sparring Capulets and Montagues who will do everything to destroy her love for Romeo – it’s heartbreaking to watch but most of all and like so many of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, everyone identifies with love, loss and devastation; this particular production certainly brings those emotions home, shakes them up and then shakes them some more. The audience fell completely silent and yes, tears were shed.
Dylan Kennedy is equally captivating as the wide-eyed boyish Romeo who loses his heart in such a devastating, doomed betrothal. Kennedy has the ability to flit from romance to comedy and then straight into high drama whilst still maintaining his effortless charm. He literally stuns audiences from the outset with his naïve, foolish fanciful feelings of first love, which is followed later by his unbelievably realistic, terrifying knife fight with Tybalt (Jack Joseph). The horrors Romeo faces at the end of the production when he discovers Juliet’s sorry fate is met by gasps from the audience who completely empathise with the young man’s horror. Kennedy is enchanting and it’s not hard to drown in Romeo’s torment in the final Act.
The entire cast breathe life into the stunning narrative; in particular Stefan Majczak in the role of Romeo’s cousin Benvolio, a peacemaker who tries to prevent the violence and hatred between the Capulets and Montagues, gives a spectacular performance. James Murfitt is similarly perfectly cast in his role as Romeo’s close friend Mercutio and there are some hilarious moments when he mocks Romeo over his poetic, soppy love for Juliet, and Jack Joseph is absolutely sensational in the role of Juliet’s nephew, the temperamental Tybalt.
There are some wonderful scenes between Romeo and Friar Laurence who is played by Russell Anthony. Anthony steals many of the scenes as the holy man and adviser to Romeo and Juliet and his grief in the final narrative is staggeringly real. Similarly Helen Evans in the role as Nurse who advises the young couple is played out brilliantly. Evans portrays Nurse as a little like the infamous Mrs Overall (Julie Walters) from Victoria Wood’s ‘Acorn Antiques’ and adds a refreshing comedic element to what is such a tragic story. Other mentions must be given to the outstanding performances from Andrew Bolton (Capulet) and Pamela Hall (Lady Capulet). Chris Courtenay gives a commanding performance as the Prince of Verona and James Pellow portrays Montague (Romeo’s father) as a steely, charismatic figure who looks dumbfounded and broken in the final scene. Alex Hooper gives his character Paris a suitably creepy edge, portraying him as a louche young man who wears shades and essentially just sees Juliet as an object.
The technical staging of this production is absolutely superb from the knife fights to the choreography (Richard Jones) and the sound of the thunderstorm, rain and musical arrangements provide the perfect finishing touches (Ruth Cooper-Brown).
Although I have attended the matinee performance, I look forward to watching an evening performance later this week as I hear the lighting and mood are even more dramatic at night. The one criticism I have is the acoustics which is always a problem when staging productions in large echoing buildings, but as the production moves into Act II the ears become accustomed to the sound and you will find yourselves swept away by the raw emotions.
Antic Disposition was founded in 2005 by Ben Horslen (Director) and John Risebero (Director/Designer). The London based theatre company is going from strength-to-strength, with recent sell-out runs of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at Jermyn Street Theatre. They are currently planning an exciting production of Charles Dickens’ festive ‘A Christmas Carol’ from 20th December – 30th December 2014, at Middle Temple Hall.
Antic Disposition’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a must see production but sadly it’s only running until 7th September, so whatever you do don’t miss this romantic drama in the heart of the city.
Dates: 30th August - 7th September 2014 Daily at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday / Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m.
No performance on Tuesday 2nd September
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased through their website www.anticdisposition.co.uk
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Ticket Prices: Standard £25 / Under 18 £15 Unreserved Seat
Premium £35 / Under 18 £25 Reserved Front Row Seat
Day Seats £15 A strictly limited number of seats will be released at
9:00 a.m.for that day's performance(s). Bookable online or by phone only.