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Theatre Review: Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Zoe Craig
By Zoe Craig Last edited 95 months ago
Theatre Review: Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Ellie Kendrick (Juliet) and Adetomiwa Edun (Romeo). Image by John Haynes
Ellie Kendrick (Juliet) and Adetomiwa Edun (Romeo). Image by John Haynes
Ellie Kendrick (Juilet). Image by John Haynes
Ellie Kendrick (Juilet). Image by John Haynes
Iain Redford (Capulet), Ellie Kendrick (Juliet) and Penny Layden (Nurse). Image by John Haynes
Iain Redford (Capulet), Ellie Kendrick (Juliet) and Penny Layden (Nurse). Image by John Haynes
Rawiri Paratene (Friar Lawrence). Image by John Haynes
Rawiri Paratene (Friar Lawrence). Image by John Haynes

Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, insists that the Globe is more than just tourist fodder. He wants the Globe to be considered alongside places like the National as somewhere to see seriously good theatre.

So why does he persist in putting on productions like last night's "Romeo & Juliet"?

It all started well enough. Jolly period music, a renaissance setting, colourful costumes, and that ubiquitous Shakespearean scene one, where nothing much happens while you settle in your seat or shuffle for a comfy standing position, attune your ear to the strange clipped syllables, and wait.

But then followed an overlong, obvious, clichéd rendition of Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet". This might've satisfied the tourists with £5 groundling tickets who left in the interval, having seen some of that funny English Shakespeare in that funny round theatre, but surely left some of the people in the £33 seats, expecting world-class performances a little disappointed.

Despite some excellent sword-fights, cheeky comic moments, and a near-brilliant Adetomiwa Edun as Romeo, there were just too many flaws.

We missed the bubbling tribal tensions that fuel this play. We missed the Queen Mab speech: good as he is, Philip Cumbus' Mercutio didn't use the whole stage, and vocal projection remains a perennial Globe problem. We missed any tragedy. Worst of all, we missed a suitable Juliet.

Ellie "I'm off to Cambridge to study English in a bit; this is just my summer job" Kendrick seems to have been cast for her ability to look 13 years old alone. (You might remember her from the BBC's Anne Frank adaptation.) We didn't notice her falling in love at all; she received news of Romeo's banishment like a child told she can't have a birthday party this year. (And for odd some reason, moved like she was on casters, walking without bending her knees.) Her chirpy, sing-song delivery at the start made her sound like a 13 year old, yes, but one discovering rhyming couplets for the first time.

Later, when called upon to make one of the great tragic romantic gestures of all time, Kendrick failed to inject Juliet's awful final decision with any feeling whatsoever. People around us looked at each other in nose-wrinkling sadness; not, we fear, because our heroine was dead.

As our guest pointed out, she played the whole thing "far too posh North London teenager."

Perhaps Kendrick's Juliet was just outshone by a far superior Romeo. Edun's early youthful bounce and joyful falling in love with love was pretty infectious. However, when about to break into Capulet's tomb, Edun's "tempt not a desperate man" theat did leave us wondering, "Desperate? Who?"

From the full octave of Shakespeare's intended emotions, this "Romeo and Juliet" is far happier playing higher comic notes, and middle-range drama: there's not nearly enough deep tragedy for the play to succeed.

Romeo & Juliet is on at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre until 23 August. Box Office 020 7401 9919. Tickets from £5.

Last Updated 01 May 2009

CRAiG

Ellie "I'm off to Cambridge to study English in a bit; this is just my summer job" Kendrick ?

ha! ouch!

ZoZo

Didn't mean to be cutting - Ellie pretty much said that herself at a Globe press conference I went to a couple of months ago.

More than anything, I was just so disappointed by her. On the strength of her remarkable self-confidence, and the tiny bits I'd seen of Anne Frank, I thought she was going to be awesome. I promised my guest she'd be worth coming along to see, was dead excited about the show, and so on.

No doubt she'll be the next Keira Knightley all the same... :-)

Reemy

'Didn't mean to be cutting' - what on earth did you mean then? Anyone who knows Ellie Kendrick will be aware that your apparent quotation is a serious misrepresentation of her attitude towards her work and towards the role of Juliet in particular. It is such a shame that most of the readers of your review do not know her personally and may believe that she is as arrogant and off-hand as your twisting of her words at the press conference suggests. You are of course entitled to your own opinion of her performance but that is no excuse for personal and snide mis-quotation.

ZoZo

Was going for cheeky, actually. Am hardly the only reviewer to mention her Cambridge plans: they're all over the web: here, here and here are just a few examples.

You're right that alongside many other readers I don't know Ellie personally. But I'm sure she's equipped with a decent sense of humour about her almost ridiculously privileged position this summer, and will be able to take this light-hearted turn of phrase in the manner in which it was intended :-)

Reemy

Aha! Thanks for the explanation; I was obviously mistaken in thinking there might be just the teensiest bit of envy behind your comments.......

Badger_Madge

Pfff! I know how frustrating it can be to watch a substandard Juliet (or Ophelia for that matter). In fact, I think I've only ever seen one decent Ophelia and that was at the Creation Theatre's outside performance at Magdelan College c.2001…

And don't worry, Reemy, I'm sure ZoZo would rather have been educated at the fine establishment she was than at some horrible breeding ground for the socially retarded.

Badger_Madge

Heh heh! That's because they're all pretty shitty, let's be honest. Ok, OK I take it back. And I admit I've got a fair few friends from Oxbridge – they're only a bit socially retarded ;)

Rob Chisholm

I couldn't agree with this review any more if I tried, with perhaps the exception that after the first Act I wanted to climb on stage and tie Edun/Romeo's feet to the floor.

It all started off very bright and breezy, but as the production wore on (or should that be wore me down) I began to think that we had been taken for fools to think that we could pay a visit to the The Globe to see some real Shakespeare. I wrote to the theatre after my visit to say that "I felt that they were just playing to the masses". From just before the interval some those who decided to get a 'bit of culture' for the evening were leaving, and so it continued slowly but surely all the way through. It was only because I'd paid my £33 and couldn't believe that it wouldn't improve that stopped me from leaving. And to think that I diverted from Cornwall to London on my way home to Rutland after a weekend away to see this drivel!

It was without doubt the weakest and most liberty taking production of R&J that I have ever seen.

And just before anyone jumps to any conclusions and tries to typecast me, I'm a comprehensive school educated Brummie who didn't have the fortune to attend Uni, but who knows a good bit of Shakespeare when he sees it! Maybe that's the problem - I just didn't 'get it'. Whatever, this was a rubbish production.

Rob Chisholm

Well the only other time I've visited was for 'Midsummer Nights Dream' a couple of years back, and I thought the production style was much better suited to that. I guess "As You Like It" would also sit better.

I'll just pick my visits more carefully in future.

rwgg

Adetomiwa Edun "near-brilliant" as Romeo? Are you serious? I've seen high school performances with keener understanding of the emotional subtleties of the text. I've just watched the "Globe on Screen" recording of the production and lost count of how many times I had to wince as he pranced, as often as not backwards, to the four corners of the stage, as if sheer New Kids on the Block energy might be a suitable representation of youth, passion, love, grief. He effectively tramples the language of Shakespeare with his "happy feet" and cheesy one-note back-row delivery. However inferior you might've felt Kendrick to be, and she was infinitely better than you've characterized her here, she was never in danger of looking anything but stellar by comparison.