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Romeo and Juliet review at St James’s Square, London – ‘delightful open air Shakespeare’

Indigo Griffiths and Adam Strawford in Romeo and Juliet at St James Square, London Indigo Griffiths and Adam Strawford in Romeo and Juliet at St James Square, London

Shakespeare’s youthful romance acted full-throttle on a balmy summer evening in the flowery surroundings of London’s garden squares – what could be more delightful?

Director Tatty Hennessy and her cast keep things simple, playing on grass, with no raised areas beyond scattered trunks, in front of a clothes line and with no lighting except a string of bulbs and a few garden candles. The washing is fine for invoking Hennessy’s 1950s Italian setting inspired by Elena Ferrante’s Naples, but less satisfactory for the grand ball and for Juliet’s tomb.

The energetic cast run among the audience and engage in realistic fights. Natural light fades while the play darkens, so that the tragic ending is just visible in the dusk. Exuberant music – many of the cast play instruments and sing – gives way to mournful requiem and then a final joyous chorus of Mambo Italiano.

The balcony is dispensed with, but Indigo Griffiths and Adam Strawford as Juliet and Romeo exude such credible teenage fervour and sincerity that this hardly matters. Jack Brett is a clever, embittered Mercutio and Hannah Sinclair Robinson a stalwart Benvolio.

Among their elders, Liz Marsh, both a fuss-pot, protective Nurse and grief-stricken Lady Montague, and Julia Righton as a racked Sister Lawrence, provide excellent support.

Verdict
Vigorous open-air Shakespeare with a cast of outstanding young performers
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