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Spencer Cowan reviews Blue Crate Theatre's 'Romeo & Juliet'

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life.


Such is the opening of the story of Shakespeare's most famous doomed lovers. It is a story known throughout the world and has taken many forms over the past 400 odd years. With this in mind I attended Blue Crate's production with a mix of trepidation at seeing a story I know all too well (I played Romeo at Drama School) and excitement at seeing how this innovative and dynamic young company were going approach it. I was not let down. Director Anna Simpson's stylised choral performance in the intensely small StageSpace at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington was everything this play should be - bawdy, visceral, frustrating, and ultimately poignant.


The performance is played using only 7 actors, who multi-role seamlessly and continuously lead and support the main action on the stage whether this be as Mercutio's drunken party crew or when they are simply and effectively used as tools to add tension or lightness to a scene. The space is tiny yet well designed in stark white tiles and if an actor isn't being used, they watch or turn their backs from the sidelines to create interest or intimacy respectively.


For me, the use of mime, physicality, music, and chorus were what really made this production special and my only critique would be that I would have enjoyed even more of it, particularly in the second half.


The lead roles are taken by the suitably annoying, love-lorn Oliver Lynes as Romeo, and the petite yet powerful Lorna Jinks as Juliet who played her character's maturing journey from girl to woman with subtlety and assurance. Having played the role of Romeo myself I understand what a task it is to make the character relatable and likeable as he whinges and moans in the opening scene of his poor broken heart yet Lynes pitches it excellently and is supported expertly by Laurence North's Mercutio. North delivers a stand-out performance in every role in fact, delivering the famously difficult Queen Mab speech with ease and aplomb.


In case you all missed it, Shakespeare turned 450 years old last week and I'd suggest that going along and seeing Blue Crate Theatre's innovative performance of one of his greatest works would be a damn fine way to celebrate.


Thus with a kiss I die...

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