The timeless Romeo and Juliet was a joy to watch. The cast of only seven actors included Oliver Lynes, Lorna Jinks, Jonathan Mulquin, Penny Lisle, Laurence North, Cameron Harle and Yvonne Martin—most of who were trained in the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Watching Romeo and Juliet for the third time allowed me to think deeper; to observe why this particular tragedy never ceases to captivate. I realised all the more how it is a play of extremes: there is the humour of Mercutio (Laurence North was hilarious!), the sassy character of the nurse and the magical-thinker Romeo whose first discussions of his pervious infatuation with Rosaline are completely ridiculed. Then, especially after the interval, the audience engages with pure rage, jealousy, strife and passionate love—fighting destiny’s fate. The sheer pace of this play leaves every viewer engaged.
All seven of the cast introduce the prologue; the word ‘blood’ is said in unison but each character speaks a line—then Romeo and Juliet together say ‘a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life’. This particular Romeo and Juliet is wonderfully raw; hardly any characters exit; each individual sits along the sides of the white tiled stage when their lines have ceased. They either reside as an active audience to the new scene, in which they exhort facial expressions, laugher and sound effects—or they rise up again playing, an alternative or less significant character. Camerson Harle, for example plays Tybalt, Paris and the Chorus. The upper part of the actors faces are painted white to highlight their eyes and facial expressions in the small, dark theatre room—overtime the tears of grief rub this away. Minimal props are used throughout the play; the white stage consists of one white block in the middle where the characters rest, hide and finally die; it serves as the perfect platform for two people to end their lives in each other’s arms.
A favourite moment is the famous ‘balcony scene’ in Act Two, where Romeo and Juliet express their love in linguistic bliss. Both characters are on opposite ends of the stage, looking towards the audience (Romeo with his head up and Juliet with hers down), speaking to each other as if both bodies are physically visible to the other. Oliver Lynes and Lorna Jinks master this scene with the innocence and infatuation of anyone who begins to truly love for the first time. A bright red ribbon is stretched by two actors across Juliet’s shoulder level and is creatively used to represent the balcony she leans on. The same red ribbon is then used by the Friar to tie the knot of marriage between both lovers—yet it is also used to represent the blood that stains Romeo’s hands in his murder of Tybalt.
If you are looking for a classic play that delivers its true purpose, the Pleasance’s Romeo and Juliet is highly recommended!