Time is of the essence in Romeo and Juliet – fuelled by youthful energy, their love burns hot, hard and fast. It’s fitting then that a clock is a recurring image in Robert Icke’s imaginative production, counting out the minutes between the lovers’ first meeting and final parting.
Icke emphasises the role of chance in proceedings. There are a number of Sliding Doors moments in which time bends briefly allowing us to glimpse the way things might have played out if only that letter had been delivered, or that thumb never been bitten. But this is a device that remains teasingly underdeveloped.
The production contains plenty of visual wit and invention but it never quite coheres into a recognisable world. The performances help ground it. Catrin Stewart’s Juliet sits precariously on the cusp between girlhood and womanhood. She can’t help but revel in the drama of her plight – she glitters with pleasure when Romeo clambers in her room and, later, her eyes fill with a similar glitter when she clasps the dagger she keeps under her pillow. Daniel Boyd’s Romeo is only a shade more grown up, playing a game that becomes all too serious all too quickly. But though they’re individually strong performances the chemistry between them is sometimes lacking.
Tom Mothersdale’s Mercutio is all thrust and jest, skinny jeans and Shoreditch swagger, playing pranks right up until they spot the bloom of blood upon his shirt. Though it makes a few awkward tonal lurches, the production has an appealing freshness and accessibility, and is tautly paced and compelling.