It’s a warm, balmy - almost Veronese - evening in the Park and we’re in a fifties world of slicked back hair, flick knives, wasp waists and full skirts in which a mafia-like Capulet, played by Tim Woodward, is locked in his ‘ancient grudge’ with David Whitworth’s silver-headed statesman-like Montague.
Laura Donnelly as Juliet - with her tiny stature and clear voice initially tinkling with laughter - gets the innocent child rapidly developing into a mature woman of tragedy just right. She is well matched by Nicholas Shaw’s boyish Romeo, who also finds real depth after the death of Mercutio (beautifully done by the mercurial, choking, blood-spitting Oscar Pearce) and the murder of Ben Joiner’s alluring Tybalt. Another outstanding performance is Claire Benedict’s garrulous, pragmatic, loving, dignified nurse.
It is a fresh, intelligent production which races along because the text is substantially cut and each scene segues seamlessly and fast into the one before. One particularly effective idea was to have Romeo and Juliet making decorous balletic love on the balcony during the night while Capulet and Paris are making wedding arrangements on the stage below.
I was less happy about David Shrubsole’s intrusive, film-style music. It and some noisy crowd scenes are too often used as background or characters to speak against, which makes for aural clutter and audibility problems. And the notion of having the entire cast present as a chorus to hurl confetti at the star-crossed lovers after their wedding is a nonsense - the whole point is that this is secret marriage. I can see no justification for adding incongruously modern lines and phrases to Shakespeare’s verse either.