Tag Archives: Katy Stephens

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

★★★½

Online via creationtheatre.co.uk

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Online via creationtheatre.co.uk

Reviewed – 16th May 2021

★★★½

 

“an intriguing adaption and a creative and unique piece of digital theatre”

 

Two households, both alike in dignity. Those famous lines are how Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedy usually begins. Except in this interactive online version, I find myself on a Zoom call alongside a great many households, watching live as the fight kicks off between the two feuding families.

One of the key selling points of this fun and fresh reinvention of a much-loved classic is the interactive element – where the audience can make decisions about the characters’ fates. For my first choice, I have chosen to be a Montague, and so I begin the play witnessing the initial street brawl between the two sides and then dashing off to see Romeo (Kofi Dennis), Mercutio (Dharmesh Patel) and Benvolio (Harmony Rose Bremner) preparing for their night at the Capulets.

How to stage a play on Zoom is a question many theatre companies have grappled with over the past year and designer Ryan Dawson Laight and director Natasha Rickman have come up with a worthy and bold solution. Performing individually, the actors swim onto brightly-coloured ghostly backgrounds, where characters overlap each other and become both big and small. After a short adjustment period, it soon becomes immersive – an ethereal and inviting experience.

As we enter the party and meet the Capulets, the story moves swiftly on to another Zoom call, where our hero meets his Juliet (Annabelle Terry), but is also pursued by the watching eyes of Tybalt (Sebastian Capitan Viveros) and Lord Capulet (Graeme Rose), setting the familiar chain of events in motion.

Then it is back to the company’s website, where the choice-making element of the production truly begins, interspersed with pre-recorded scenes. As well as the decisions – laid out on tarot cards – there are also valiant attempts to engage with the Zoom audience and to add a bit of personalisation to the performance. These additional bits are interesting, but it is hard to add very much new material to such a well-trodden story and I am often unsure how much impact each decision I make has.

I hope it is not a spoiler to say that, despite my choices and the combined efforts of Sister Lauren (Clare Humphrey, as a gender-swapped Friar Lawrence) and the nurse (Katy Stephens), I do not manage to save the star-crossed lovers. But there are hints throughout the production that a more discerning viewer might be able to…

Along with the staging, the combined efforts of music and sound (Matt Eaton) and movement and choreography (Simon Pittman) work well for the fight and dance scenes, but perhaps less so for the love scenes. The actors largely adapt happily to the digital realm, with some stand-out performances. Kofi Dennis as Romeo is particularly good, embodying all the angst and passion you would expect from the young hero. And Dharmesh Patel brings an ominous, almost-creepy air to Mercutio that works surprisingly well. Support from the rest of the cast (Giles Stoakley, Vera Chok, Viss Elliot Safavi, Lola Boulter and Andy Owens) also adds depth to the performance.

With all of its additional elements, this Romeo and Juliet is an intriguing adaption and a creative and unique piece of digital theatre.

 

Reviewed by Vicky Richards

 


Romeo and Juliet

Online via creationtheatre.co.uk until 23rd May

 

Have you read this review?

Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021

 

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Mary’s Babies

Mary’s Babies
★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Mary’s Babies

Mary’s Babies

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd March 2019

★★★

 

“a hugely ambitious play that doesn’t quite succeed in its intentions”

 

In the 1930s, Dr Mary Barton and her husband, Dr Bertold Wiesner, founded one of the first clinics to treat infertility with donor insemination. Because the practice was new, there were no regulations regarding donor selection. Barton said she had a small pool of select donors, but thanks to DNA testing, we now know the majority of the 1,500 women who were treated by Barton were inseminated with Wiesner’s sperm.

Written by Maud Dromgoole and directed by Tatty Hennessy, Mary’s Babies imagines various intersecting lives of a handful of people who discover they share Wiesner’s DNA. There’s considerable skill in Dromgoole’s windows into lives that are rich, genuine, and occasionally touching. However, despite the creative team’s best efforts to maintain clarity, with just two actors multi-roling so many different characters with such abrupt alternation, a lot is lost in the shuffle.

Katy Stephens and Emma Fielding take on a total of thirty-nine different characters, although the play primarily revolves around five. Stephens and Fielding are strong performers (they admirably handled a technical difficulty which stopped the show midway), and Stephens in particular impresses with her vivid transformations. An ingenious set design (Anna Reid) that displays the names of the characters on a wall, which light up according to who is in each scene, is indispensable.

But even with first-rate multi-roling and displayed character names, the play can be difficult to follow. Hennessy’s choice of minimalism for an informationally dense piece, and Dromgoole’s choppy, short scenes with vague dialogue, leave large gaps for meaning to fall through. Entire scenes often hinge on one word that is too easily lost. I missed the word ‘eulogy’ in the opening monologue, so didn’t get why Stephens was reading off a script, thinking it couldn’t be possible she didn’t have the lines memorised. I missed the word ‘polydactyl’ in another scene, and was perplexed by the fuss about Stephens’ hand.

Additionally, the characters’ ages don’t transmit well. A reveal toward the end that two characters are twins doesn’t click; I spent the performance believing one was about ten years younger than the other. All of them, who are dating and planning/having children, seem to be in their thirties. Kieran, arguably the main character, comes off as early twenties. They jar with the maths, which says their age range is forty to eighty (the play takes place in 2007 and the clinic closed in 1967). It’s evident Dromgoole wanted to write younger characters. The play may have been stronger if it were set in the present, about a fictional artificial insemination scandal in the 1980s.

This is a hugely ambitious play that doesn’t quite succeed in its intentions. Too much visual and verbal information fails to communicate. The script seems better suited to film, which would solve a lot of its problems.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Robert Workman

 


Mary’s Babies

Jermyn Street Theatre until 13th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Mad as Hell | ★★★ | February 2018
The Dog Beneath the Skin | ★★★ | March 2018
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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