Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Romeo And Juliet, Middle Temple Hall, 3 Sep 2008

But, let them measure us by what they will,
We'll measure them a measure, and be gone.

We all have these experiences in which an actor illuminates a character we hadn't care much for before. The title of this post could very well be "How I Learned To Relax And Started Loving Benvolio".

Max Bennet's performance puts in focus this one of the most overlooked characters of the play. His Benvolio is youthful but wise, charming but discrete; when Romeo gets banished you really get a sense of tragedy around him, now with his best friend killed and his other best friend banished, Benvolio stands totally and utterly alone. It's all done in the subtle gestures, the way Mister Bennet just stands there after the banishment, defeated, his tight, clipped tones.

First of all, this was our first time at a Theatre of Memory show. If this "Romeo and Juliet" is anything to judge them by, we are pretty sure we will be repeating whenever. The emphasis was on the haunting location, the Middle Temple Hall - haunting because it's one of the few places where one can be sure Will Shakes himself set foot on. We will not pretend we weren't excited by that. The preoduction was heavy on the pretty costumes but the prettiness worked very well. The white and gold of the clothes matched the lyricism of the play perfectly. (We wish they would have managed to get some blood on, though).

Tamara Harvey has quite a reputation and now we come to understand why. It's easy to foresee we'll be trying to attend to all of her shows in the future. The work with the actors obviously shines through, and in a production like this it would be too easy to get caught up in the place and costumes and all kinds of shiny things.

So the production was flawless and inspired, and the cast was very nicely put together. Will Kemp is everything you might want in a Mercution and a bit more: charming to the point of sickness, light-headed and light-limbed. There's something desperated in his Mercutio: the character must have really low self esteem to push himself like that and be a show off and just try to charm everybody. Oh, well, poor bastard.

Santiago Cabrera was more competent than expected. He had a good Shakesperean diction, and was likeable enough for one of the less liakeable characters in Shakespeare. Romeo has always been a kind of whiny moron, but he has poetry enough to pull that off. Meanwhile Juliet Rylance rubbed us the wrong way, even if she was very competent. Her Juliet was not teenage-y at all, and she was fesisty but not vulnerable.

Of the rest of the cast special mention deserved by Nicolas Tennant -surperb- and the wonderful Michael Brown, whose career we are going to follow closely from now on, he makes a perfect Paris, all uptight and clueless and sweet and always the innocent bystander. Paris has always been our favourite character in the play and we can't for the life of us understand why Juliet would want to marry Romeo instead of him.

The swordfighting was very good. We have been seeing a lot of good swordfighting this year, what with the two Hamlets and this. We are nothinbg if not shallow and good swordfighting is the key of any Shakespeare production for us.

We pretty much agree with everything said in the review by Interval Drinks. In particular the part about the show being hardly revelatory but enjoyable.

For us it will always be the show that Max Bennett stole. We'll have to keep an eye on him.

*photo by Alex Guelff

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