Reviewed by Camilla Mount.
I thought that I couldn’t remember the last time I had heard the lines of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but of course I could, those immortal lines that when delivered badly become cliché are part of every English child’s schooling, and they make me nervous. Especially when I leave my warm comfy flat and head out on a frosty Sunday evening to go and watch them be performed. But I need not have worried. Camden People’s Theatre are currently playing host to physical theatre company Action to the Word, who are halfway through their two-week run of Romeo and Juliet. The theatre space is built in the round within a large blacked-out room. The surrounding walls had been turned into a giant blackboard where audience members are encouraged to write quotes or their own thoughts up on the wall. This element of participation – while inadvertently turning the look and feel of the place to slightly resemble a romantically inclined pub toilet – works well: younger members of the audience, who had been looking a little jaded during the first act were actively – and accurately – scribbling down quotes from what they had just seen.
The performance was powerful and entertaining. The company’s use of the space provided an intimacy between the actors and the audience that was inclusive rather than awkward, and the energy of the small cast was not only sustained throughout, but it drew you in and made you listen again to words of the play as they interpreted them for you. Not tempted to shy away from the play’s bawdy humour, the banter and back-slapping between the young Montague men was appropriately loud, raucous and crude. McCreadie’s high-octane performance as Mercutio danced dangerously close to the melodramatic, constantly pushing the energy levels up a notch and challenging the others around him to do the same. Juliet, played by Violet Ryder, reminded us of the character’s childish and playful innocence at the start of the play, contrasted with the rapid and dramatic change her character is forced to undergo as the fates conspire against her. Ryder’s performance transformed a role that is so often portrayed as a dull stargazer, into a powerful, tragic story of the coming of age. Usher’s quiet, and impulsive Romeo worked well alongside such a boisterous cast, while his performance in the final scene was both touching and poignant.
Romeo and Juliet runs for one more week until February 26th at the Camden People’s Theatre and I highly recommend that you go.