Friday, June 23, 2017


James Karas

This is a production of Romeo and Juliet the likes of which you probably never saw before and with any luck you will never see again. Director Daniel Kramer tries to combine commedia dell’arte with modernism and the result is a burlesque of Shakespeare’s play that is painful to watch. A few points and examples will have to suffice.

In the opening scene two stretchers are pushed onto the stage with two people covered in black who turn out to be clutching miniature coffins. The prologue and the words of the Prince are heard over loud speakers. The stretchers will come in handy during the play and in the Capulet crypt.
 Golda Rosheuvel,,Kirsty Bushell, Harish Patel, Edward Hogg and Ricky Champ
Most of the characters have white masks painted on their faces and some have red noses as if they are clowns. These are commedia dell’arte types of characters with their stock characteristics, pantomime and acting style.

The function at the Capulet mansion where Romeo (Edward Hogg with his face painted white) meets Juliet (Kirsty Bushell) is a masked ball which would be appropriate. But the attendees make a pretty strange crowd. We have medieval armour, an assortment of Disney characters and brisk movement. At times the production looks like Romeo and Juliet on steroids. Is it intended to please teenagers?
Kirsty Bushell and Edward Hogg in Romeo and Juliet. Photo: Alistair Muir 
The scene where Mercutio (Golda Rosheuvel) and Tybalt (Ricky Champ) are killed is presented as a party/dance scene rumble with very loud music. A mattress is brought on the stage and Juliet dances on it in anticipation of Romeo’s arrival. Romeo kills Tybalt on the mattress with Juliet jumping up and down obviously unaware of what is happening.

Kramer makes Friar Lawrence (Harish Patel) into a Muslim who speaks with a Pakistani accent. I am sure there was a reason for this that simply escapes me. Mercutio is played by a woman, Golda Rosheuvel. Reason? The bearer of the poison is a FedEx courier.

Lady Capulet (Martina Laird) looks like Mickey Mouse who has a lot of trouble keeping the hair pieces that make up her ears in place. The Nurse (Blythe Duff), with her thick Scottish accent shows spunk but has a hairdo that makes her look like a recent escapee from a lunatic asylum. Lord Capulet (Gareth Snook), with a black clown’s hat and red nose, sings “YMCA.”

When Juliet is in bed (on the mattress) talking with the Nurse, Romeo is there too. Then Friar Lawrence walks in on the same scene.

Kramer gerrymanders and combines scenes so that it seems that you are watching the play on a split screen on your computer with people being able to jump from one screen to another. It looks as if no cockamamie idea came to Kramer that he considered too inane to incorporate into the production. Shakespeare’s play is used as a clothes line for Kramer’s ideas to be hung to dry.

The result is a travesty.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare continues in repertory until July 9, 2017 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, 21 New Globe Walk, London. www.shakespearesglobe.comThe Norman Conquests (2013)
Photos by Cylla von Tiedemann

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