Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Astillero and the Mercury Company, Colchester


My second Romeo and Juliet this month – and both set their scene far from fair Verona.

The Mercury, in partnership with Salida productions, used a tango band – the excellent Astillero – and a 21st century tréteau nu.

The stage was stripped back to the bare walls, with a makeshift bare wooden dais, and smaller one in the front stalls. There was a good deal of movement through the auditorium, too: the balcony scene was all over the place.

Beginning with the laid-back band wandering on to start the show. They were much more than accompaniment, taking minor roles, like the “can you read” Capulet's man, and memorably, assembling like the Mechanicals, scripts in hand, to do a bridging scene.

Gus Gallaher's Romeo came on as a hoody, and gave a strong, well-spoken performance, even doubling Paris at one point. His Juliet, Maria Victoria Di Pace, had a touching immediacy, but was more expressive in her dance than in her words. Partly because, even miked up, she struggled to be heard over the band, and partly because her English, though clearly enunciated, was not to the manner born.

The supporting cast were superb – Keith Dunphy's sandalled Friar, Ian Pirie's incandescent Capulet, and Shuna Snow's Nurse, young,loud, with an amazing vocal range and huge presence.

The end came quickly [how often have we wished it so!] with an electrifying moment when Romeo slumps and Juliet sits up, and the two fathers are reconciled with a handshake over the corpses.

The meeting of tragedy and tango was a potent blend, with the music making the words all the more moving. The power of Ed Hughes' production, with its unbuttoned emotions, its bawdy and bravado, stunned the audience, and managed to enthral and involve the hyper horde of young teens at the back of the auditorium - “run through the ear with a love song” ...

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