Tag Archives: Felipe Pacheco

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet


OVO at The Roman Theatre

ROMEO AND JULIET at OVO at The Roman Theatre


Romeo and Juliet

“This is a fine production for a summer’s evening”


It is the time for theatre to go into the outdoors and the annual smatterings of summer Shakespeares in parks and gardens around the country. There is no finer setting for this than amongst the Roman ruins in St Albans.

Co-directors Stephanie Allison and Amy Connery show Shakespeare’s relevance today with a bold reimagining of the script and by transferring the story to 1990s Belfast at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Live music from an onstage band – guitar, bass, violin – provide Irish-inspired tunes to help the mood (Musical Director Tommaso Cagnoni).

The set (Designer Simon Nicholas) is dominated by an iron derrick, daubed with graffiti and the words Peace by Piece. Stacks of boxes, pallets and sacks surround it, some marked helpfully with the word Belfast. This is a working dock and the lads set the scene by throwing sacks around before we see the first evidence of a city divided. A spunky Tybalt (Katie Hamilton) taunts the rather soft Benvolio (Lyle Fulton) and an eight-person rumble ensues. The fight is presented most effectively in the form of contemporary dance (Choreographer Felipe Pacheco), with shades of West Side Story. Lady Montague (Anna Macleod Franklin) lays down the law by talking of the Good Friday Agreement. Not in iambic pentameter but certainly within the spirit of the classic text.

We meet a sullen Romeo (Ryan Downey) clearly showing his depression, but even with the use of a head mic, some projection remains necessary, and Downey’s downcast mumbling sadly loses so much of his diction. This is to be a problem for much of the evening.

The Queen Mab story helps pick up the pace due to an energetic telling by Mercutio (Jenson Parker-Stone). Parker-Stone offers the performance of the night with fine singing and a spirit that lifts the production each time he is on stage. (What a shame his character gets killed off midway through the story.)

Romeo is broken out of his melancholy with one of the finest scenes – a three-part harmony rendition of Things Can Only Get Better – but the energy drops again for the Capulet’s party with little onstage movement. Even Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting and their sharing of the love sonnet doesn’t excite. Later the couple will perform a dumb show/slow dance (to The Cranberries poignant Zombie) as they spend their sole night together. Despite some good work from Francesca Eldred as Juliet, the couple together lack any sense of the joy of experiencing love for the first time. The spark isn’t there.

As the tragedy plays itself out, Ben Whitehead as the Friar, dressed in double denim, (Costumes Emma Lyth) exploits his inner Reverend Ian Paisley; Anna Macleod Franklin takes a second role as the totally loveable Nurse and beautifully sings Nanci Griffith’s I Would Bring You Ireland as the young lovers are married; and Faith Turner as Lady Capulet gives a fine performance with her argument with Juliet about marriage: the words truly coming from her heart not from the page.

This is a fine production for a summer’s evening. The use of popular music with adapted lyrics to illustrate the text works well – The Pogues’ Sally MacLennane is a fine example; the fight scenes are dramatically portrayed with energetic kicks and punches; and the adherence to much of the original words of Shakespeare, despite the transfer into modern day Northern Island, is praiseworthy. The production deserves to appeal to the widest audience.



Reviewed on 7th June 2023

by Phillip Money

Photography by Elliott Franks



Previously reviewed at this venue:


A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★ | May 2022

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Lyric Hammersmith

OTHELLO at the Lyric Hammersmith



“Michael Akinsulire’s Othello is a commanding presence.”


We are in a rough suburban pub. It could be London, but more likely a Northern province; the accents give nothing away. But the accentuation of Shakespeare’s words crackles with a dynamic menace that propels us headlong into the ensuing tragedy. Beer bottles and baseball bats are the weapons of choice, a pool table is the battlefield. Frantic Assembly’s fierce retelling drags “Othello”, kicking and screaming, well and truly into the twenty-first century. The jealousy, revenge, paranoia and racism are brought so close to home you can practically smell the beer on the breath; and you’re not sure if you’re about to be kissed or killed.

The opening sequence sets the theme. The electronic duo, Hybrid, provides a throbbing soundtrack that epitomises the tensions. The pecking order is beautifully established in the staccato movement that is both balletic and thuggish. Purists look away – but these moments evocatively replace much of the text that Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have sliced from the original.

Michael Akinsulire’s Othello is a commanding presence. A powerful gang leader but with a gullibility and vulnerability that Akinsulire manages to pull off without it clashing with, or weakening, his power. Chanel Waddock is a fiery and feral Desdemona, genuinely baffled by the injustices of her husband’s accusations. The performances are powerful, yet unafraid to expose the weaknesses inherent in the characters. Weaknesses that are exploited by Joe Layton’s distrustful and fearful Iago. Layton’s unflinching performance sets the standard and throws down the gauntlet for others to match. Which they do. This is a tight-knit gang who move, think, and speak as one body.

The themes of jealousy and revenge in “Othello” are inherently heightened and often difficult to infuse with realism. It works with these characters, that are dangerous and youthful; fuelled by cheap alcohol and seeming social deprivation. Laura Hopkins’ fluid set displays the grimy claustrophobia that funnels the raging emotions. We never escape the pub setting, except when the walls unfold to reveal the back alleys. At other times the walls shift, threatening to envelop the characters as they sink further into the crevasses of their consequences.

Slightly overwhelming, it is nevertheless thrilling. The key moments are highlighted while superfluity is banished. There is a fine balance between the electrifying physicality and the subtle discourse. The tragic finale comes across as a bit rushed, with a body count veering on the comical. The fault lies in the script: as with some of his other plays, the loose ends seem to be tied up with a deadline-defeating desperation. It’s a flaw the writer can surely iron out with experience though! But with a performance as strong as this, Frantic Assembly will undoubtedly help to ensure that Shakespeare’s work achieves the longevity it deserves.



Reviewed on 24th January 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Tristram Kenton



Other Shows recently reviewed by Jonathan:


The Sex Party | ★★★★ | Menier Chocolate Factory | November 2022
Top Hat | ★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | November 2022
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Handel’s Messiah: The Live Experience | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Drury Lane | December 2022
Potted Panto | ★★★★★ | Apollo Theatre | December 2022
Rumpelstiltskin | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2022
The Midnight Snack | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | December 2022
Salt-Water Moon | ★★★★ | Finborough Theatre | January 2023
The Manny | ★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | January 2023
Wreckage | ★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | January 2023


Click here to read all our latest reviews