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The Open Air Regent’s Park Summer 2008
Romeo and Juliet by Lizzie Loveridge
Twelfth Night by Charlotte Loveridge

Romeo and Juliet
The Open Air Regent’s Park Summer 2008
Nicholas Shaw as Romeo and Laura Donnelly as Juliet
(Photo: Alistair Muir)
The wonderful setting for London’s prettiest open air theatre saw the sun shine for its new artistic director Timothy Sheader’s opening production of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The Shakespeare plays are always charming and mostly traditionally pleasing in interpretation for this well loved venue. The season sees Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and a production of a truncated A Midsummer Night’s Dream suitable for quite small children from the Bard and the musical Gigi opening later in the season in August.

This Romeo and Juliet has a very Italian, almost Sicilian setting in 1950s dress and opens with a visually exciting choreographed introduction where the rivalry between the families is conveyed through expressive dance. The friars meet, one on an old fashioned bicycle with a handlebar basket full of herbs and share a thermos of tea, sitting in deck chairs. Ladies Capulet (Annette McLaughlin) and Montague (Jennifer Bryden) could have walked out of Audrey Hepburn inspired 1950s Vogue. Tybalt’s (Ben Joiner) suit is run through with a metallic thread. Throats are slit and there is plenty of real blood to remind us of the number of teenage deaths we are hearing about in modern day London. Capulet (Tim Woodward) physically abuses his wife, Juliet and the Nurse (Claire Benedict) in this male dominated society. The nurse wears a magnificently designed frock, the skirt decorated with large appliquéd sail boats. Lady Capulet seems to have a problem with alcohol and a manservant pulls her off the County Paris (Neet Mohan) as if she might have a predilection for younger men and leaves us with the feeling that her relationship with Tybalt might have been more than cousinly.

Nicholas Shaw and Laura Donnelly are very appealing as the lovers. One scene sees Friar Lawrence (Richard O’Callaghan) talking to Romeo interspersed with Juliet discussing is banishment with the Nurse. It is Friar Lawrence who takes charge as Romeo threatens to go to pieces. It is a lovely setting and a wood pigeon cooed all through a prettily lit dawn unbothered by the talk of larks. The classical house set has an open wooden stair and parapet for the balcony scene. But I shall remember this production for the beautiful movement work by the ensemble cast. The closing funeral scene is spectacular in black high fashion as the families come to terms with their rivalry and shared grief.

Twelfth Night
The Open Air’s beautiful setting, in the depths of Regent’s Park which feels far removed from the city in spite of being in its very heart, is perfect for this romantic comedy. Within the grand but crumbled red brick edifice, this Twelfth Night inhabits an elegant 1930s world of smoking jackets, long cigarette holders and jazz tunes.

With a keynote of clarity, this is an accessible production and could be enjoyed by those usually daunted by Shakespeare. For instance, Viola (Natasha Dew), before assuming her disguise, is treated to a walk-on tour of the main protagonists and scenes are overlapped to demonstrate the plot’s exposition.

Energetic as well as lucid, this is a passionately charged interpretation which really suits the Open Air’s space. Oscar Pearce’s excellently ardent Orsino, for example, displays angry capriciousness as he is wracked by his own self-indulgent romantic melodrama. At one point, he flings himself to the floor bawling his eyes out for Olivia (the gracefully poised Janie Dee) and at another, impetuously kisses Cesario before instantly withdrawing from an apparently homosexual embrace. With a nicely directly parallelism, Olivia’s own excessive grief is shown to mirror Orsino’s histrionics. However, Viola’s feistiness at times comes out as petulance and the high pitched emotional furore obscures some of the play’s tender melancholy and yearning poignancy.

Clive Rowe’s Feste emerges as the a musical star in this production. With a singing voice so good, the descent of an oversized disco glitter ball in one scene seems no less than an appropriate tribute to him. Playing Feste as a mime comedian of the era, his clowning is physical, exaggerated and permeates every spoken line, whilst his Sir Topaz impression mimics a gospel preacher. Although the audience appreciated his comedy, the exaggerated buffoonery loses some of Feste’s worldly-wise insights.

Ultimately, Twelfth Night is a fairly easy play to do well and this charming production succeeds in providing a comprehensible, fun evening, if somewhat thin on originality or heart-rending wistfulness.

The Open Air Regent’s Park Summer 2008
Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Directed by Timothy Sheader
Box Office: 0844 826 4242 Open Air Theatre Regents Park London NW1 (Tube: Baker Street)
Romeo and Juliet
Starring: Richard O’Callaghan, Nicholas Shaw, Laura Donnelly
With: Matthew Hart, Andy Cryer, Marcello Walton, Ben Ingles, Anna lisa Rossi, Leon Williams, Ben Joiner, Richard Cotton, Jennifer Bryden, David Whitworth, Tim Woodward, Neet Mohan, Dale Superville, Annette McLaughlin, Claire Benedict, Oscar Pearce, Harry Myers
Design: Robert Innes Hopkins
Composer: David Shrubsole
Costume: Fotini Dimou
Movement and Choreographer : Liam Steel
Lighting: Simon Mills
Sound: Fergus O’Hare
Fight Director: Terry King
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes with one interval
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 9th June 2008

Twelfth Night
With: Claire Benedict , Jennifer Bryden, Richard Cotton, Andy Cryer, Janie Dee, Natalie Dew, Clive Hayward, Ben Ingles, Neet Mohan, Harry Myers, Richard O'Callaghan, Oscar Pearce, Annalisa Rossi, Clive Rowe, Marcello Walton, David Whitworth, Leon Williams, Tim Woodward
Director: Edward Dick
Set Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins
Costume Designer: Fotini Dimou
Composer: Dominic Muldowney
Movement Director: Jane Gibson
Lighting Designer: Simon Mills
Sound Designer: Fergus O'Hare
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes with one interval
Booking to: 30th July2008
Reviewed by Charlotte Loveridge based on 13th June 2008
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