Creation Theatre have uncovered a previously unknown Shakespearean Comedy, Romeo and Juliet. The love story is played for laughs, as the famous balcony scene begins Romeo pulls a series of funny faces, dashes backwards and forwards, and has the audience laughing out loud. This is a fun, delightful, and original take on the story.
There are two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues. Romeo, the son of a Montague, and Juliet, the daughter of a Capulet, meet at a masked ball, are instantly smitten, and only recognise the other when it’s too late. Director Charlotte Conquest adds religious symbolism to the tale, when the two fall in love it is akin to the fall of man, they dance seductively together, bite from a red-hot apple, and cause calamities to arise.
Everything about the production is tight and fast-paced. Amy Noble proves she is an excellent actress convincingly playing the teenage Juliet and an elderly Lady Montague, and the double role itself is clever as it suggests a kind of Oedipal reason for Romeo’s affection. Patrick Myles’ Romeo, however, is transformed into more of a fool rather than a tragic lover, he often has a lost Frank Spencer look, a fumbling rapport with his lover, and is the butt of jokes. Benjamin Askew is extraordinary, too, as Mercutio, he delivers every line like a tease in the same way he teases the other characters. He is a blond, spikey-haired rocker, with golden “nimble soles”, much like My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. He is a crowd-pleaser, providing funny fight scenes, dancing with his enemies, and then hitting them in their private parts.
The world of Verona is also successfully created: even before we sit down the opening brawl takes place in the courtyard, in the interval Benvolio sits outside the bar crying next to the dead body of Mercutio, and throughout the play characters can be spotted continuing bits of the action in the courtyard in the background. The company are known for staging Shakespeare plays in some of Oxford’s most imaginative locations, these have included an island in the River Cherwell, Headington Hill Park, Oxford castle, and now Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. The building is uber-modern and designed by Dixon and Jones, the architects responsible for the Royal Opera House in London. It’s a spectacular setting for a spectacular play. A fun evening’s entertainment.
Runs till 4 September.
To see or not to see: * * * *