Innovative re-telling of Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers
Romeo and Juliet, New Wolsey Theatre, until Saturday October 8
The Night Light Theatre Company’s Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare as you have never seen it before. The text of this ‘most excellent and lamentable tragedy’ is cut by half, six of the characters are puppets and some 23 characters are portrayed by just eight actors. Could it still be Shakespeare? Indeed it could and the reduced length was no doubt appreciated by the predominantly young audience, many of them GCSE students. For them it was a chance to gain the essence of the story of these star-crossed lovers, the bitter and enduring enmity between two great houses in Elizabethan Verona, and the final tragic line ‘for never was a story of more woe, Than this of Juliet and her Romeo’. It also gave them an opportunity to experience professionals using different dramatic techniques.
Robin Beer’s Mercutio keeps to the traditional comedic role that Shakespeare uses to switch from comedy to tragedy, thus reinforcing the play’s dramatic tension. Juliet (Samantha Barron) maintains the anxiety of her unexpected dilemma and Romeo (Christopher Tester) leaves us in no doubt that this new love is the real thing. The excellent puppet nurse becomes Juliet’s Fairy Godmother in Night Light’s magical world while the astounding puppet friar, that at first drew laughter, become a wise and respected counsellor.
So is Shakespeare turning in his grave? I think not. The theatre needs innovation if it is to continue attracting audiences. Substituting puppets and introducing music into Shakespeare is part of the natural process.