WITH any Shakespeare production, the first five minutes is the maximum time span it has to engage with its audience.
The way to do this is certainly not to spout forth the text as homage to our Will, but to make those glorious words sound like everyday conversations.
Also, if you can smack the punters in the face with a few verbal custard pies that’ll work a treat.
Andrew Cowie is a seasoned director and one who certainly knows how to work a crowd .
In this Romeo and Juliet at the Crescent Theatre he had the house chuckling with an almost impromptu ‘Who’d like to read a bit of Shakespeare’ interaction with the audience piece from Thomas Baldachin, cleverly grabbing the attention as we all thought ‘Please not me’.
This is a very confident and competent show with some clever casting and imaginative staging – the story telling is clear, the pace doesn’t sag and there are some exceptional performances.
Alan K Marshall as the Nurse is quite charismatic and listening to his vocal range is like dipping into a box of nice chocolates.
Likewise Fi Cotton makes a marvellous Friar – again she too brings lusciousness’ to the delivery.
Traditionally of course the Nurse would be female and the Friar male – thank goodness Cowie hasn’t stuck to tradition.
Nor has he simply chosen to dress it in modern middle class attire but follows his vision through by substituting swords for Stanley knives and bottled potions for hypodermic needles.
The simple setting of a white stage within a stage served by two white drops provide an abundance of acting areas all of which are beautifully lit to a design by Kenny Holmes and Molly Wood.
The introduction of red petals cascading down at times when blood is spilt is like watching an artist painting.
The vision of Juliet (a sweetly innocent performance from Charlotte Upton) dying on a carpet of white and covered in red is quite haunting.
Samuel Wilson puts in an energetic performance as Romeo and I’m sure will grow as the run progresses – at the moment it is a little too much delivered on one level.
The stand-out performance is from Holly Prescott as Mercutio who makes the character and stage her own. She is quite simply joyous and it is a pity she has to die so early on in the play.
This is an all inclusive and thoroughly enjoyable production, which I thoroughly recommend if it it’s your first Romeo and Juliet or if you’re a seasoned performance veteran – this one breaks new ground.
It runs at The Crescent Theatre until Saturday, November 10.
Visit www.crescent-theatre.co.uk for more information, times and tickets.