The opening street brawl in the RSC’s touring production of Romeo and Juliet starts with playful slap and tickle, but quickly turns lethal.
Director Erica Whyman’s agile production of Shakespeare’s star-crossed tragedy, which is on at the Theatre Royal Nottingham, until Saturday, February 23, is a fast-moving affair powered by a youthful cast.
It’s an intensely physical production which stresses the vulnerability in the teenage lovers’ lives as much as the violence.
I’m not sure I was totally convinced by the decision to cast a woman as Mercutio, a traditionally male role, but there is no denying Charlotte Josephine’s mad tomboyish energy.
Ishia Bennison’s raucous nurse is a vision in ginger, cerise and powder blue, and threatens to steal the show, but also illuminates the troubled relationship between Juliet and her parents.
Michael Hodgson fires off abrasive tirades, punctuated by hand-claps and chest beatings, as her edgy, unpredictable father, while Mariam Haque makes an equally unstable mother, who is tragically unable to communicate.
With so much strong support, the leads did well to turn in such distinctive performances.
Bally Gill’s Romeo is a loose-limbed wordsmith whose verbal jousts perfectly match the contemporary “street-style” of the production, while Karen Fishwick animated the role of Juliet with a fresh, convincing performance.
The spectre of knife-crime hangs over the play, and at the end the victims rise from the dead to join the survivors for a slightly cluttered finale.