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Romeo & Juliet At The Kings Theatre

Author: annahowelll Published: 20th September 2012 09:35

 Last night saw the opening night of a national tour of Romeo & Juliet by the Icarus Theatre Collective, who explores the harsh, brutal side of contemporary and classical theatre, at the Kings Theatre in Southsea.

Played out by a cast of only eight (which I did not realise until the play had finished and the actors came on stage to take their bows) this production of Romeo & Juliet was by far one of the greatest I have ever seen!

The group stuck to traditional dress and dialogue but certain twists throughout made for real thought-provoking entertainment.

One of the biggest twists was the use of gender reverse in some of the roles.  This angle has been attempted by other productions before and, in my opinion, let the rest of the play down.  However, in the Icarus' performance last night, it not only worked but exceeded beyond my own expectation of just how powerful and fitting such changes could have been to this timeless piece.

The main example of this was the casting of a female in the role of Capulet, Prince of Cats ( Gabrielle Dempsey).  Fans of the play will know how Capulet is by far one of the most spiteful and vindictive characters Shakespeare ever penned, and with a woman playing the part - exceptionally well I may add - it brought a whole new level to the manipulation of the character, making her, well, very cat like!

Also, whilst Capulet was still played as a man, and Montague spoken of as one, it was their wives who took the charge of all situations, played out by their husbands in most other productions, and again this worked sensationally well, showing these strong dominant characters the way they would be seen in today's society.

In most productions I have seen, the nurse has always been portrayed as a humorous, almost comedic, character, and whilst the Icarus maintained her level of comedy throughout, the actress playing the nurse, Gemma Barrett,  brought so many more levels of her character to the plot. Her performance, be it comical or dramatic, shone through in every scene she embarked on.

Romeo ( Kaiden Dubois) and Juliet (Katrina Gibson)  were played very sincerely and traditionally by their actors, and I think this was very important and instrumental in the success of the play, as if too much is tweaked then it can become overbearing.  They, however, kept the balance between Elizabethan society and today's society watching it, seamless and consistently brilliant throughout.  Benvolio (Christopher Smart), again, was kept very original, and the actor playing him was exceptional.

Mercutio (David McLaughlin), played superbly to the character, was seen to bring a new level between the Montague and Capulet rivalry, using Shakespeare's own dialogue to suggest a sexist despise against Tybalt, as well as the family rivalry.  This was incredibly clever, and on par with the same metaphoric platform used by Baz Luhrmann in the 1996 blockbuster movie version of the play, in which he turns Mercutio's love speech to be about drugs.

All in all, Shakespeare lovers, and those not familiar with his work, will find this production an amazing piece of art, bringing one of the greatest examples of British literature to life on stage.

I thoroughly recommend you make this the one play you must see!

Romeo & Juliet is on for today only, here are the listing details:

Kings Theatre, Albert Road, Southsea, Portsmouth PO5 2QJ

Performances: Wednesday 19th & Thursday 20th September 2012, 7:30pm Thursday Matinee 2pm

Box Office: 02392 828282, Groups: 02392 852208 / 852232, Website, Tickets: £13.50 - £15 Schools £8

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