Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Arriving just as new term starts for this generation’s allegedly finest minds, the timing of Tony Cownie’s production of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers tragedy couldn’t be better. Because when love-lorn Romeo, big-talking Mercutio and and handsome himbo Benvolio gatecrash the Capulets posh party, it’s as if they’re a gang of thrusting but wet behind the ears freshers on a bender and intent on spreading their seed. By this time they’re already en route to creating something monumental, as the empty plinth centre-stage of Neil Murray’s bombed-out set that becomes both wedding bed and grave in a fractured kingdom indicates. The crucifixion image at the back of the stage, meanwhile, suggests the divide that fuels the play is something much bigger than purely familial.
Juliet’s first entrance on a child’s scooter points up just how the assorted courtships and subsequent emotional dramas she becomes party to are merely a great big game that become a matter of life and death by accident. With a pushy mother who only wants a Hello magazine society wedding, this daddy’s girl’s rebellion is set from the off.
The danger of casting actors of the calibre of Liam Brennan and Cara Kelly in such senior roles as Juliet’s parents is that the play runs the risks of becoming all about the grown-ups. Steven McNicoll’s Tweedle-Deeish buffoonery in the relatively minor role of the Capulets messenger Peter too threatens to upstage the leads. Fortunately Kirsty Mackay and especially Will Featherstone rise to the occasion with aplomb in a chicly dressed affair that isn’t shy of under-cutting some of the play’s more sacred set-pieces in a quietly ambitious if at times underwhelming production.
The Herald, September 20th 2010