The RSC’s Complete Works Festival opens with this interesting tap dancing version of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. Just when you thought you had seen every interpretation of the Bard’s most famous work, Director Nancy Meckler comes up with the unusual idea of tap dancing with big sticks instead of fighting, looking suspiciously like a mush between The Tap Dogs and Stomp. This darkly lit and rather flat production is instantly lifted with the appearance of Rupert Evans as Romeo, his humour and boyish lovelorn sighs breathes much needed life into events. His Juliet, played with girlish charm by Morven Christie, is less convincing - although she is delightfully giggly as the 14-year-old Juliet would have been, she lacks the grand passion to persuade us of her unhinging love.
The head of the house of Montague is played by Patrick Romer, with his opposite number in the Capulet house, Nicholas Day. They look distinctly interchangeable in their ill-fitting lounge suits. Lady Capulet is brought sharply into focus by Caroline Wildi’s sultry performance, propped up by a glass of wine. Sorcha Cusack is wonderful as Juliet’s ever patient nurse, with her strong Irish accent adding resonance and colour to her performance. Mercutio, played by Jamie Ballard, has to work hard to convince us of his street creditability, which is not immediately recognisable in his diminutive stature and Adam Rayner as Tybalt clearly captures the undercurrent of gang violence that permeates this play. A strange muddle of costumes and set design places it nowhere very interesting and the young men seem to be sporting a range of seventies-style blouson leather jackets.