Romeo and Juliet

IAN CLARKE Norwich Theatre Royal


If you can only appreciate Shakespeare by watching a classic, by-the-book, purist's production, then you might want to give Norwich's Theatre Royal a miss this week.

Actually, you may want to make this your last sentence and read no further.

However, if you feel willing to indulge yourself in sampling an adaptation of perhaps the greatest love story of all time by a company which is prepared to act out of the box, then keep going.

The English Touring Theatre is certainly willing to take risks in its bold bid to widen the appeal of theatrical works.

In 10 years, the company has won 17 major awards for its work and rightly won wide acclaim from some of the nation's leading reviewers.

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There is a passionate belief that quality stage productions should not be elitist and that people everywhere deserve the best.

Last night's opening night of the tragic tale of Miss Capulet and Master Montague certainly proved both its central aims are being met.

The young and diverse audience was most refreshing.

And the imaginative direction and passionate performances shone out.

Straight forward Shakespeare it is not.

Apart from perhaps the friar, none of the characters would be recognisable to the eye from what you would expect.

The adaptation is, after all, set in the 1950s.

I had to re-adjust to initially seeing Juliet as resembling Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and her nurse as one of the moaning old women in Last of the Summer Wine.

However, the appreciative gathering soon warmed to the powerful acting – the marvellous portrayal of the raw emotion, love, hate, humour and bawdiness which come together in the play.

Mercutio (OT Fagbenie) was truly outstanding and his every word and colourful movement was lapped up. His snog with the nurse was a memorable moment.

The principal characters (Adam Croasdell and Laura Rees) grew in strength and power as the plot deepened.

Juliet's soliloquy after discovering her love had killed her cousin Tybalt was a very moving scene.

Different it perhaps was. An excellent piece of theatre it certainly was.

Shakespeare was an actor who wrote his plays to be heard and seen on the stage.

The ETT is successfully making sure that happens to great effect.

The production runs until Saturday September 27. Shows each evening at 7.30. Matinees today and Saturday at 2.30. Tickets are available for all performances, ranging from £4 to £17. Box office: 01603 630000.