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Romeo and Juliet

. . .and when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night

--- Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Kananu Kirimi as Juliet and Tom Burke as Romeo
(Photo: Andy Bradshaw)
This eighth season at London's Globe, the re-creation of a Jacobean theatre on the South Bank of the Thames, is focussing on star crossed lovers and what better play to open the season than that of Romeo and his Juliet. It is the first time that The Globe has played this most famous and popular of Shakespeare's tragedies.

What The Globe does really well is historically accurate music and dance, costume and atmosphere and in this case some vigorous sword fighting as well. It is a total experience for visitors to London, a magical evening in a theatrical space, cheek by jowl with other members of the audience standing in the pit or crammed onto the wooden benches in the seating areas that surround the stage. What the Globe is not, on this occasion, is innovative or experimental or ground breaking theatre. It fulfils what most people have come for, a traditional production in a traditional setting and most people leave more than satisfied. But we critics look for something more and in the last two years the Globe seemed to be closer to pleasing critics.

Tim Carroll who was responsible for the award winning Twelfth Night is Master of Play (the Globe's quaint title for the director) for Romeo and Juliet. Playing in the Globe's space is an acting skill little used nowadays. The actor has to be heard above the noise of rain and helicopters in a space where the sound is often sucked up into the starlit void -- the area above the Pit which is open to the elements. It calls for the opposite of underplaying as in most close camera work where many actors make the major part of their living, but for a clear and distinct voice that can carry. Many of the actors in Romeo and Juliet are repeating previous year's experience at the Globe.

There were moments I really enjoyed. In the balcony scene, Juliet hides when she realises her romantic musing on Romeo has been overheard, peeping out from under the rug that covers the balcony. The male actor Bette Bourne is cast as the nurse and he gives a really enjoyable performance with plenty of humour. But the space seemed too large for the young lovers to convince us of the intimacy of their passion.

The Globe Season - Romeo and Juliet
Written by William Shakespeare
Master of Play: Tim Carroll

With: Joel Trill, Callum Coates, James Garnon, Bill Stewart, Melanie Jessop, Kananu Kirimi, Simon Müller, Bette Bourne, John Paul Connolly, Terry McGinity, Julia Marsen, Tom Burke, Rhys Meredith, Tas Emiabata, John McEnery
Master of Clothing, Properties and Hangings: Jenny Tiramani
Master of Historical Music: William Lyons
Master of Theatre Music: Claire van Kampen
Master of Dance: Siãn Williams
Master of Combat: Rodnet Cottier, Johnathan Waller
Master of the Words: Giles Block
Master of Movement: Glynn MacDonald
Master of Voice: Mark Rylance
Running time: Two hours fifty minutes with one interval.
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Booking to 26th September 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 19th May 2004 performance at the Globe, New Globe Walk London SE1 (Tube Station: London Bridge/Mansion House via Millennium Bridge)
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