“The whole cast is excellent with thrilling ensemble scenes”
Love is in the air in Regent’s Park. Director Kimberley Sykes takes on Romeo and Juliet in the Open Air Theatre’s first production of the summer. And there are fewer finer places to experience the traditional coupling of English Summer and Outdoor Shakespeare than this superb park setting.
It is a fast-paced, energetic production. Sykes shaves off a bit of time – the opening chorus is gone and the ending is rethought – and races through the action without an interval.
The drama is set in a neglected Verona in need of urban regeneration with rubble-strewn streets and a fissure across the stage – the site of an earthquake eleven years previously. The Nurse (Emma Cunniffe) lays down a remembrance to her lost daughter Susan which is immediately desecrated by a gang of youths and hints at the violence to come.
The crack symbolises the division between the two families. On one side, the Capulets dressed in white; on the other the Montagues in black. It is an onstage human chess game, but this is speed chess and the pace is unrelenting. Sykes wants us to believe that the players take no time to think, no time to ponder on their next move. Decisions are rashly made and the consequences are tragic.
The backstage structure of four levels of scaffolding is further evidence of the decline of the city and provides great variety of height for the actors and, when the time comes, a sweat-inducing climb for Romeo to reach his Juliet’s bedroom. But this distance between the levels is not always a positive thing; conversations are stretched over too large a space and it is difficult to believe that the two lovers could have been struck down at first sight whilst masked and so extremely socially-distanced.
Subtle technical support means that every word of the text is heard and the actors are not required to over-project. The whole cast is excellent with thrilling ensemble scenes. Juliet (Isabel Adomakoh Young) catches the eye and when she smiles, it is pure sunshine. Romeo (Joel MacCormack) is a love-sick puppy, bounding up and down the stage, his softly spoken dialogue most convincing. Tybalt (Michelle Fox) is a chillingly cool Queen of Cats and her battle with Mercutio (Cavan Clarke) one of the standout scenes of the evening. Friar Lawrence (Peter Hamilton Dyer), with his wise words, is the master tactician and the sole participant in the story allowed to take his time.
There is humour in the production but the traditional comic elements of the Nurse are more downplayed than often. There is poignancy too: after each death, the actor stands – the spirit rising from the body – and observes the ongoing proceedings from afar, leaving an eerie empty space where their body had fallen.
Kimberley Sykes has intentionally created a breakneck speed production of this most told tale and some elements of the work are undoubtedly lost in this manner. But, outside in an English summer’s evening, I am happy to enjoy this reminder of Shakespeare’s great work – the love, the tragedy, the fights, the poetry – and leave a more ponderous undertaking of the text for the winter (indoors).
ROMOLA GARAI AND EMMA CUNNIFFE TO STAR IN THE WEST END TRANSFER OF QUEEN ANNE WRITTEN BY HELEN EDMUNDSON AND DIRECTED BY NATALIE ABRAHAMI, QUEEN ANNE WILL PLAY AT THEATRE ROYAL HAYMARKET FROM 30 JUNE UNTIL 30 SEPTEMBER 2017 TICKETS GO ON SALE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC ON MONDAY 13 FEBRUARY AT WWW.RSCQUEENANNE.COM
Romola Garai will star as Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough alongside Emma Cunniffe as the eponymous monarch in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Queen Anne. After originally opening at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in November 2015, Queen Anne will transfer to Theatre Royal Haymarket for a thirteen week limited run from 30 June until 30 September, with a press night on 10 July.
Priority booking for RSC Patrons & Members will open on 6 February and RSC Members priority booking will open on 9 February. Tickets will be on general sale from 13 February at
Written by Helen Edmundson (The Heresy of Love, RSC) and directed by Natalie Abrahami (Happy Days, Young Vic), this gripping new play explores the life of one of England’s little-known sovereigns and her intimate friendship with her childhood confidante Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.
1702. William III is on the throne and England is on the verge of war.
Princess Anne is soon to become Queen, and her advisors vie for influence over the future monarch. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, a close friend with whom Anne has an intensely personal relationship, begins to exert increasing pressure as she pursues her own designs on power.
Contending with deceit and blackmail, Anne must decide where her allegiances lie, and whether to sacrifice her closest relationships for the sake of the country.
Romola Garai will play Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Romola is best known for appearing in films such as Amazing Grace, Atonement, Vanity Fair, Inside I’m Dancing, Glorious 39 and Suffragette, and in BBC series such as Emma, The Hour and The Crimson Petal and the White. She has been nominated for a BAFTA and twice for a Golden Globe Award.
In addition to her work on screen Romola’s theatre credits include Calico (West End; Evening Standard Theatre Award Outstanding Newcomer nomination), King Lear and The Seagull (RSC), The Village Bike (Royal Court), Three Sisters (Lyric Hammersmith), and Measure for Measure (Young Vic).
Emma Cunniffe will play Queen Anne. On stage, Emma won the UK Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in The Master Builder in 2000. Her other stage work includes Tales from Hollywood (Donmar), Losing Louis (Hampstead/West End), Women Beware Women (RSC), Proof (Menier Chocolate Factory), The Entertainer (Old Vic), Conquest of the South Pole (Arcola), A Doll’s House (The Lowry), Edward II, Three Sisters, Major Barbara, Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange), Amongst Friends, The Glass Room (Hampstead). She was nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award in 2011 for her role as Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Emma has numerous TV credits including Unforgotten, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, George Gently, Waterloo Road, Father Brown, Coronation Street, Moving On, Southcliffe, Good Cop, The Other Child, Doctor Who, Poirot, A Place of Execution, The Genius of Mozart, Clocking Off, All The King’s Men, Great Expectations, and The Lakes.
Helen Edmundson’s plays include The Clearing, (Bush Theatre), Mother Teresa is Dead, (Royal Court), Mary Shelley,(Shared Experience at The Tricycle and on tour), and The Heresy of Love (RSC). Her other work includes Coram Boy (National Theatre and on Broadway), a new version of Calderon’s Life is a Dream (Donmar), a musical adaptation of Swallows and Amazons, written with composer Neil Hannon, (Bristol Old Vic, West End and on tour) and Thérèse Raquin (Bath Theatre Royal and on tour). She has written a number of adaptations for Shared Experience Theatre including Anna Karenina and Mill on the Floss, which toured nationally and internationally, and War and Peace, first staged at the National Theatre.
Helen has recently completed screenplays for See Saw Films and Potboiler Productions and her episodes of the Hat Trick television drama The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher were seen on ITV, as well as the film adaptation of An Inspector Calls on BBC television. Helen is currently working on a new play, commissioned by the National Theatre. She has been the recipient of several awards, including the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for drama 2015, a John Whiting Award for The Clearing, a TMA Award for Anna Karenina and Time Out Awards for Mill on the Floss and Coram Boy. She is an Associate Artist of Bristol Old Vic, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Natalie Abrahami is a former Genesis Fellow and Associate Director at the Young Vic. Her Young Vic credits include Happy Days, After Miss Julie and Ah, Wilderness! and the short films MAYDAY, The Roof and Life’s a Pitch. As former Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, London, Natalie’s productions include Vanya and The Kreutzer Sonata which later transferred to La MaMa, New York. Other credits include: Queen Anne (RSC), How the Whale Became and Other Tales (Royal Opera House), The Eleventh Capital (Royal Court), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Headlong) and Pericles (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre). Natalie was also an Associate Artist at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton between 2013 and 2015 and Associate Director at Hull Truck in 2012 where she directed Yerma and Hitchcock Blonde. Natalie won the James Menzies-Kitchin Award for Directors in 2005 for her double-bill of Play and Not I (Battersea Arts Centre).
The RSC Acting Companies are generously supported by
THE GATSBY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION and THE KOVNER FOUNDATION.
The work of the RSC Literary Department is generously supported by
THE DRUE HEINZ TRUST.
Main Queen Anne image by Darren Bell
TRH Productions, Scott Landis and Tulchin Bartner Productions present the Royal Shakespeare Company Production of
Written by Helen Edmundson Directed by Natalie Abrahami
Theatre Royal Haymarket, Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT
Performances run Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinee performances on Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.
There will be a captioned performance of Queen Anne on Wednesday 9 August and an audio-described performance on Wednesday 2 August.
Tickets begin at £15
£10 Day Seats will be available from 10am on the day of the performance only through the Theatre Royal Haymarket box office. A limited number of £5 tickets for 16-25 year olds will be available from 10am on the day of the performance only at the Theatre Royal Haymarket box office. Proof of ID will be required. Day Seats will not be available on Press Night.