Romeo And Juliet (Aquila)

Romeo And Juliet
3 stars ***
Assembly @ George Street (Venue 3)

AT THE BEGINNING of Aquila Theatre’s version of Romeo And Juliet, fresh from New York, there’s a moment of live drama like no other.  The cast line up on stage, each carrying a little velvet sack containing the names of the major characters of the play; then they pass among the audience asking them to draw lots, with each actor fated, that day, to play the character whose name is first out of his or her bag.  Thus it was that on the day when I saw the show, Juliet was played by a chunky, bald, middle-aged bloke, while Romeo was played by a beautiful blonde girl; the effect was occasionally comic, of course, but not so much so as to obscure the beautiful basic shape and poetry of the play, presented in a sharply-cut two-hour version.

The difficulty is, though, that once the shock of the reallocation of parts is over, this really amounts to nothing more than a decent, middle-range Rome and Juliet, presented with minimal set and props.  The fight scenes are outstandingly exciting and well-choreographed, the acting is variable but always spirited, and the inevitable gender-bending invites the odd deep thought about the absence of female actors in Shakespeare’s day.  But to experience the full effect of this experiment, audiences would have to return day after day, until they had seen the parts played by every possible combination of actors; and in Edinburgh in August – well, very few people have time for that.

Joyce McMillan
Until 27 August
p. 217



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