Sherman Cymru’s first production with Rachel O’Riordan at the helm presents a rough and edgy adaptation of a Shakespearean classic.
This October saw the opening of Sherman Cymru’s production of Romeo and Juliet; Rachel O’Riordan’s first as Artistic Director. The concept of ‘street Shakespeare’ is not new, as many adaptations (including Baz Luhrmann’s well-loved film) have used an urban setting to portray the story of star-crossed lovers. Yet this version furthered these ideas in a fresh and radical way, whilst staying faithful to Shakespeare’s words.
Starring Chris Gordon and Sophie Melville as the title lovers, this performance harnesses a gritty, grimy version of the classic love story. From the moment Capulet burst onto the stage in full Scottish rugby kit to greet his enemy Montague, I was well aware that this performance would not confine itself to tradition.
The production is Gordon’s stage debut and he captured the charm and sensitivity of Romeo perfectly. With her cropped blonde hair and Doc Martens, Melville’s Juliet does not stick to the archetype of the pristine Claire Danes Juliet that many adaptations have confined themselves to. Both leads have a wonderful chemistry and capture the image of first love perfectly.
However, it was Scott Reid’s Mercutio that stole the show for me. This cocky and affectionate Glaswegian broke many an audience member’s heart in his death scene and the second half certainly missed his domineering stage presence and witty one-liners. Other commendable cast members include Anita Reynolds as Juliet’s Nurse, who reduced a lot of us to tears of laughter, and Sean O’Callaghan as a troubled Friar Lawrence whose fatherly relationship with Romeo added another note of sadness to the inevitable ending.
Set amongst a minimal, but grungy background the deathbed of the teenagers is placed at the front of the stage throughout the performance adding another notion of inevitability: even complete strangers to the play will understand that there is no way that this couple will survive. The modern music and costumes (including a full velour tracksuit worn by Reynolds) reflect the violent society the couple live in and the adults whose reckless and loathsome behaviour leads to the death of their children.
Where every new Shakespeare adaptation is set against an urban background, it’s refreshing to see a production that furthers this representation in a fresh and new way. Sherman Cyrmu’s Romeo and Juliet is playing from October 2-18 at the Sherman Theatre. I urge anyone to go and see this fresh an explosive production for yourselves.