By pitching this dynamic and explosive production of Romeo and Juliet somewhere between a TV teen drama and an action movie, director Tony Cownie not only succeeds in making it appeal to Shakespeare first-timers, but also to those jaded by one too many pedestrian adaptations in the past.
With an excellent ensemble cast and striking stagecraft, the tale has seldom seemed so exciting. Fortunately avoiding any Baz Luhrmann style kitsch, Cownie focuses attention on his charismatic leads: the hot-headed Romeo (a convincingly impulsive Will Featherstone) and Juliet (played with teetering fragility by a winsome Kirsty Mackay), struggling to understand her newborn feelings of passion.
The supporting cast are all strong, with a particularly fine performance from Alexandra Mathie’s Nurse, her divided loyalties playing across her face as she strives to ensure Juliet’s safety and happiness. Liam Brennan is also excellent as Capulet, the spotlight of the tragedy shifting to him whenever he is on stage; his portrayal of a rash, grief-stricken father especially moving.
It is to the production’s credit that – after a few minutes – the couplets and language of the play seem mysteriously contemporary and relevant; the performances carrying the action along at a storming pace that strips any feeling of stuffiness or dryness from the text.
But it is when the light breaks upon Romeo & Juliet themselves that the piece is at its strongest. The tenderness of their stolen meetings and tragedy of their final moments is beautifully realised, and Featherstone and Mackay are captivating in their portrayal of naive, doomed yet touchingly pure love.
Show and ticket information is available on the Lyceum website