Romeo and Juliet

Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Ian Karl Moore
Black Box Theatre Company
Unity Theatre, 8th February-11th February 2006

Reviewed by Helen Grey

The concept of the Black Box Theatre Company is an admirable one, offering young actors the chance to perform in a professional environment. Unfortunately the culmination of the company’s latest offering - Shakespeare's ‘Romeo and Juliet’ - is somewhat less than professional.

The production setting was ‘non-specific’, according to the play’s director Ian Karl Moore. This gave him free rein to have large ghetto blasters and a telephone, combined with traditional swords against a stage that resembled a Mark Rothko painting. The idea was apparently to ‘highlight the vibrancy of the play - the youth culture, the sense of society in the throes of change, full of glamour but always with an undercurrent of danger and violence.' In reality the audience was left confused and unable to place the play in any real context, and as for the glamour I must have blinked and missed it.

The performances of the actors were not terrible, but they were unable to bring any depth to the characters. Romeo in particular - played by James Powell - delivered his lines so quickly that the beauty of Shakespeare’s language was lost.

The biggest disappointment was the blatant copycat direction taken from Baz Luhrman’s highly successful 1996 film version of the play. This ranged from the balcony scene (in which Juliet is not actually on the balcony but appears on the same level as Romeo) to the intimate relationship hinted at between Lady Capulet and Tybalt.

Music - reminiscent of a soundtrack to a bad Channel Five film - was played in the background during any point of emotional tension. Rather than contributing to the atmosphere it was intensely distracting.

Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest and well-known love stories of all time, but this production offered flat, uninspiring characters to which the audience could have no emotional attachment.

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