Romeo and Juliet at The Kings Theatre: Review
Romeo and Juliet has been around for centuries. Playwrights and troupes worldwide have nipped and tucked Shakespeare’s infamous classic into endless interpretations, venturing between many genres and theatrical forms, from ice ballets to large-scale professionally-choreographed dance shows. The tragically romantic tale became a successful Leonardo DiCaprio-starring feature film a few years ago, and it’s even spawned a slightly cliché metaphor that became hugely amplified through Taylor Swift’s song ‘Love Story’. You’d think we’d be a bit tired of the whole affair by now, eh? What a relief it was, then, to see the Icarus Theatre Collective putting on such a wonderful adaptation at The Kings Theatre on Wednesday evening.
What really stood out was how Icarus exploited the two halves of the play (pre-interlude and post-interlude) to set two entirely different tones. The pre-interlude slice of the theatrical cake tasted a bit off, at first; the titular star-crossed lovers were overshadowed by comedic presences, such as the hilariously straight-talking Nurse. But post-interlude, Romeo and Juliet steal the spotlight, the comedy drains away, and tragedy floods in while the tears flood out. Juliet’s soliloquies were spoken boldly and emotively, and the chemistry between the pair had me pining for them as their rival families tore them apart and eventually drove them to take their own lives.
Not all of the play was explored –– Icarus chose to trim the fat, per se, and only leave in the juiciest bits that were central to the plot. The result? A rollercoaster rendering of the play that dragged the audience on a fast-paced soul-stirring ride for two heart-rending hours. Hope for peace between the Capulets and the Montagues was established at the dance where Romeo and Juliet first meet, but before you could say “this is going to go so wrong”, Tybalt is lying dead on the stage and the fading embers of hatred between the opposing families is sparked into a fiery inferno once again. None of the frilly bits get in the way –– we were served the raw romance, action, and tragedy in speedy succession.
Icarus did, of course, leave in the iconic balcony scene. You know, “wherefore art thou” and all that jazz. Kaiden Dubois, the fellow who played Romeo, didn’t just walk on stage and start wooing Juliet, however. He slowly strolled down towards the stage between the seating stalls, holding a dimly-lit lantern out in front of him which only just about illuminated his face, reeling off an amorous monologue. It was enchantingly unexpected. I saw a light in the corner of my eye and angrily snapped my head around thinking someone was using their phone, but then I realised what was happening and I was like, “oh, that’s awesome”.
There were a few tiny, insignificant slip-ups. Tybalt got her (well, his, but you’ll see what I mean in a minute) sword caught on her dress and Benvolio kept dropping his hat, but such trivial errors weren’t noticeable and by no means distracted from the effectiveness of the play. I became so engrossed in it all that it came as a shock to me at the end when I realised the cast was comprised of a mere eight actors and actresses! There was also an instance of gender role reversal –– Tybalt was played by an actress, and rather than being a distraction like so many gender role reversals are in theatre, it worked a treat. The costumes were traditionally striking and, aside from a few lighting cues being fractionally out of time with characters’ movements around the stage, the technical side of things went flawlessly.
Props to Icarus Theatre Collective for putting on such a fantastic show. If you missed them at the Kings, no worries! You can travel to a whole bunch of places across Britain to see this iconic piece of English literature come to life on stage until as late as May 2013. For a full list of all the tour dates and venues, check out Icarus’ website here: http://www.icarustheatre.org/