THE ROYAL EXCHANGE THEATRE IS BACK TO ITS BEST
Review by Steve Grifiths
Romeo & Juliet Royal Exchange 20 October- 18 November.
With a good play, a good Manchester based cast and a high-octane direction (Nicholai La Barrie) the Exchange is back to its best. The only downside is that the best actor (great voice projection and stage presence) Mercutio (David Judge) dies at half time alongside the brooding, violent presence of Tybalt (Ashley O’Brien) Neither of whom you would want to meet on a dark night.
The Exchange resists the urge to make the play relevant to the knife crime surge in the UK, They don’t need to as the action and violent words make the case much more effectively.
The tender scenes when Romeo (Conor Glean) woos and kisses Juliet ( Shalisha James –Davis) brim with youthful passion and the overwhelming need to do something which the society they live in will condemn. They catch the very essence of the play. This is assisted by the bare staging which allows the actors to show their abilities to great effect. Even Nursey (Gemma Ryan) makes a part, which can seem rather silly, effective.
She has the ability to stand up for both herself and her charge.
The play is clearly set in a Greater Manchester of today. Its accents ring true. This is not the suburban delights of medieval Verona; its Chorlton, Spotland, Heywood. Where anything, including teenage romance and violent death is possible.
But at the end of the day is the play fun? Yes, if you go then, you will come out buzzing. Welcome back to the Exchange.