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

By Zoe Craig Last edited 113 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