Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo & Juliet


Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet


Reviewed – 22nd July 2019



“this talented young company knows when to change gear and transport us to the essence of Shakespeare’s words and emotions”


Brighton, 1964. Whitsun weekend becomes a landmark for an explosion of youth identity during riots between the tribal subcultures of mods and rockers. Setting the mood for Exploding Whale’s new version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, it encapsulates the pent-up teenage energy and passion which simmer under the surface, ready to boil over in rage or jealousy or love. It may be a timeless tragedy, but this production pinpoints an era of adolescent unrest and disobedience, clearly identifiable in its music and fashion.

As we sit on the beach in deckchairs, the two families appear. Dressed as expected, the use of colour gives them an added stylish unity – rockers in jeans and leathers with a touch of bright red, mods in fashionable black and purple. Detailed lighting and sound (Louis Caro) punctuate scenes and enhance the ambience. The first half lends itself well to its new environment with the initial street fight and the Montagues gate-crashing the Capulet’s party (cue for music) but it takes a while to tune into certain updated roles due to the mixture of accents and unforgiving acoustics, especially in the round. As the narrative is not always clear, we are initially drawn to the more accessible personalities and by the time they are at the Capulet’s, eyes are drawn to dancing partners, Mercutio and the Nurse. However, this is followed by a beautifully powerful balcony scene which seals the play’s integrity and tone. In the second half, with some arresting and intrepid acting, it is the core of Shakespeare’s story which takes over from the 60s landscape until, towards the end, only the music reminds us where we are.

Ben Woodhall’s direction is an original but astute understanding of the script; there are novel takes on the characters, inventive staging and well-shaped dynamic flow. Teddy Morris plays a very real Romeo with a combination of sentiment and honesty which, coupled with Bebe Barry’s shining yet intense innocence as Juliet, gives a fresh and truly moving performance of a classic moment. In supporting roles, Billy Dunmore’s excellent portrayal as Mercutio is immediately charming as the fun best friend but equally bitter as he lies dying; Alex Harvey (Tybalt) brings a raw aggressive presence, Joe Bonfield gives Friar Laurence a contrasting solemnity and in a somewhat fishwife version of the Nurse, Lily Smith creates an interesting and vivid new persona.

With its own youthful energy, Exploding Whale succeeds in presenting an enjoyable and fully-fledged ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Yes, the show does have its foot-tapping moments as promised, but this talented young company knows when to change gear and transport us to the essence of Shakespeare’s words and emotions.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography courtesy Exploding Whale


Romeo and Juliet

Katzpace until 30th July 2019


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Obsession | ★★★ | June 2018
Let’s Get Lost | ★★★ | July 2018
Serve Cold | ★★ | August 2018
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | October 2018
Motherhood or Madness | ★★★ | November 2018
Specky Ginger C*nt | ★★½ | November 2018
Dead Reckoning | ★★½ | May 2019
Everything Today Is The Same | ★★★ | May 2019
Fight. Flight. Freeze. Fuck. | ★★★ | May 2019
You’re Dead Mate | ★★★★ | June 2019


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Romeo & Juliet – 2 Stars


Romeo & Juliet

Waterloo East Theatre

Reviewed – 28th June 2018


“an immense lack of energy from the performers, which rendered the beautiful words they were speaking almost useless”


When facing the prospect of going to see any production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – arguably Shakespeare’s most universally-known play – the first question that pops into my head is how will this production be different from all the other Romeo and Juliets that have either been done or are running now? Upon entering the theatre at Waterloo East for Controlled Chaos’ crack at this timeless tale of love and heartache, my hopes were high. Disco lights, high-energy club music and the cast huddled together in centre stage draped in rainbow flags. The setting was a gay club, aptly named ‘Capulets’, during pride, and for this brief moment in between entering the theatre and the start of the play, there was a genuine excitement for a potentially fresh and unusual approach to Romeo and Juliet. This excitement, unfortunately, ended with the first words of the play. From then on, the audience were presented with yet another amateur Shakespeare production lacking originality or conviction.

There was an immense lack of energy from the performers, which rendered the beautiful words they were speaking almost useless. There were numerous occasions where lines were too quiet, or actors were facing with their back to the audience. This and other issues were clear examples of a show that was lacking clear direction. This was particularly evident in the many pivotal scenes between Romeo and Juliet (both of whom were women in this production). All of the subtleties and deftness of Shakespeare’s language in these scenes were replaced with tiresome snogging and aimless wandering on stage. Thankfully Kevin Kamara and Olivia Thompson provided some much needed moments of energy and purpose as Mercutio and Nurse respectively.

What was perhaps most disappointing was that the production promised something very different to what was actually presented. The play took place during gay pride, and yet there was only one gay couple in the whole piece. The company stated in the programme that one of their goals was ‘to give women a chance to take centre stage in the male dominated classics’. Apart from making Romeo a woman, the show remained heavily dominated by men. These two stylistic choices appear to have been thought of, but not completely carried out. This means that what could have been a unique production has simply fallen into the category of uninspiring Shakespeare shows that you will undoubtedly find in other theatres this summer. On a night where the English football team failed to beat Belgium to top their group, this was also a flat and uninspiring performance.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Florence Odumosu


Romeo & Juliet

Waterloo East Theatre until 30th June


Previously at this venue
Three Mothers | ★★★★ | October 2017
Doodle the Musical | ★½ | January 2018
Unburied | ★★★★★ | March 2018

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