Romeo & Juliet – Review

Bryony Tebbutt  Dylan Kennedy in Romeo  Juliet. Photo by Scott Rylander
Bryony Tebbutt & Dylan Kennedy in Romeo & Juliet. Photos by Scott Rylander

Given the setting you’d have thought Antic Disposition may have chosen one of Shakespeare’s rousing military histories for their summer production.

For the historic Temple Church, in the heart of London, is one of the city’s oldest buildings and was the home of an order of God’s soldiers – the crusading monks known as The Knights Templar.

But, sadly, the company opted for Romeo and Juliet, a play whose subtlety, passion and intimate speeches are lost among the rafters of church’s stunning vaulted ceiling.

As venues go it’s a fascinating place to visit but as a performance space it’s diabolical. The acoustics are atrocious.

Audiences this week will have strained, as the press did on opening night, to hear what was being said even though they are sitting just a few yards from the raised stage.

Matters are not made any better by the young, generally inexperienced, cast delivering their dialogue at speed as though they had somewhere else to be.

Jack Jones and Dylan Kennedy in Romeo  And Juliet
Tybalt & Romeo fight it out.

There are two good scenes that save this modern-dress production from being entirely pedestrian.

The atmospheric ball scene where Romeo (Dylan Kennedy, looking more computer nerd than romantic hero) first meets his Juliet, is beautifully staged (though more Venician in style than Veronese) and wonderfully lit.

And the pivotal knife-fight between the hot-headed Tybalt and Romeo is superbly choreographed by Richard Jones and executed by Kennedy and Jack Jones (but more menace was needed for the sneering, cock-sure Tybalt).

James Murfitt, as Romeo’s best friend Mercutio, who starts the fight, acquits himself well in the ring.

But Bryony Tebbutt’s Juliet seems too mature and ill-matched with the gushing Romeo.

Even so she sparkles in her speeches (or those I could comprehend) as a naive girl struggling to make sense of an adult world of love and marriage.

A lot of the comedy falls on the shoulders of Juliet’s nurse (Helen Evans dressed more like a char than a nanny) and it was a bit hit or miss.

Ultimately the plays’s two directors – Ben Horslen and John Risebero – have failed to deliver an emotional story and characters that I can care about in a production that lacks weight and conviction.

Romeo & Juliet runs until Sunday.

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