Tag Archives: Priyank Morjaria

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

★★★★

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd June 2021

★★★★

 

“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).

 

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Jane Hobson

 


Romeo and Juliet

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 24th July

 

Reviewed this year by Phillip:
The Money | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021
Trestle | ★★★ | Jack Studio Theatre | June 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Open

The Open

★★★

The Space

The Open

The Open

The Space

Reviewed – 26th September 2019

★★★

 

“As topical and in vogue the offbeat concept is, the final execution does not live up to what it promises”

 

Anyone for a game of golf? Well get your clubs out and tee up, as there’s a new course in town, and it’s unlike any other seen before. The Open explores the ramifications of our near-distant future in an absurd yet unnervingly plausible fashion, but lacks an inventive story to follow the strong concept.

The year is 2050. It’s post-Brexit and Great Britain looks a little different to how we know it. Now called the GBGC (Great British Golf Course), our beloved country has been bought and taken over by the one and only Donald Trump, and turned into a mass of putting holes. It’s a bleak landscape. Protagonists Arthur (Priyank Morjaria) and Patrick (Tom Blake) are stuck in this dystopian world, despondently going about their monotonous work on the course. Arthur more diligently does what he is told, whilst Patrick yearns for the past and to see his love Jana (Heidi Niemi) again. Her unexpected return causes havoc, and with not much time to spare, gives these two men an ultimatum that will change their lives.

As topical and in vogue the offbeat concept is, the final execution does not live up to what it promises. With so much exposition to have to get across, most scenes fall flat as they become discussion based with little action ever taking place. The second half does certainly pick up pace, but writer and director Florence Bell could have created more dynamic scenarios to portray instead. At times you’re left questioning small but niggling plot holes, such as, what’s happening to the UK residents who aren’t working for the golf course? There’s also the bizarre choice of never mentioning Donald Trump, even though he is the sole reason Britain has turned into a vast manicured turf for the rich. Possibly it’s a directorial choice to only elude to him, but it simply does not work.

There is however some undoubtedly worthy attempts from Bell at examining the disparity between the rich and poor, imagining a future where the gap has become even wider. Where the UK are still reliant on people from overseas to do our low-paid jobs, and the xenophobia from Trump and Brexit’s rhetoric has exploded into awful action.

The cast try their best with putting life into the lacklustre script. In particular, Morjaria as Arthur gives a standout performance that feels truthful, with clear character progression, where others can come across one-dimensional or without real motivations.

The set design by Tom Craig is a pleasing sight. The simple but ever so effective use of green Astro turf along the whole stage immediately transports you to the artificial, Disneyland-esque perfection that the GBGC is trying to sell. The stark contrast of the stage for the second half is a nice visual indication of the murkier business that goes on underneath the corporations facade.

All in all, the whole concept just feels too big to fit into its 105 minutes running time. What strives to be an inventive new take on the dystopian-thriller genre, made popular by the likes of Black Mirror, turns out to be mostly predictable and not enthralling enough. Just like golf really.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Kit Dambite

 


The Open

The Space until 12th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Conductor | ★★★★ | March 2019
We Know Now Snowmen Exist | ★★★ | March 2019
Post Mortem | ★★★★ | April 2019
The Wasp | ★★★★ | April 2019
Delicacy | ★★★½ | May 2019
Me & My Doll | ★★ | May 2019
Mycorrhiza | ★★★ | May 2019
Holy Land | ★★★ | June 2019
Parenthood | ★★★½ | July 2019
Chekhov In Moscow | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews