Romeo and Juliet is an enduring favourite of English syllabus setters, teachers, directors, actors and by no means least - theatre goers. We all know how the story goes, know many of the quotes, and can list the body count. What hasn't been done before is to look at the situation from the other characters eyes, and tell their story.
This isn't the story of Romeo and Juliet, they are bit players here. Instead we get to meet Tybalt and Mercutio and the four-day forbidden love story that has been buried by history. Written by Rachel Garnet this new play is played by just three actors, all of whom act, sing, play instruments and sword fight with enormous skill and energy. Whilst echoing Shakespeare's language and rhymes, it has a fresh modern feel. (I'm not scholarly enough to tell you if it was in Iambic Pentamer though).
Snippets of the original play are inserted artfully. We have Tybalt and Mercutio pressing palms whilst romantically saying the famous lines:
"For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss."
Connor Delves plays the seemingly flippant Mercutio who teases the fiery Tybalt about his loyalties to the family who took him in and for whom he'll now fight anyone to preserve the honour of the family. The teasing ends in a kiss, a confusing moment for Tybalt as he realises that he can't forget it, or the cynical wit and presence of Mercutio. Tybalt is played by Tommy Sim'aan, who manages to capture the juxtaposition of brutishness, confusion and tenderness of this character to perfection.
Huge kudos has to go to Gethin Alderman (The Player) who takes on multiple roles; the beggar father of Tybalt, the Prince, the Dukes, Paris, Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio, a servant. He is incredibly tall and uses his physical presence with humour and skill. His performance is a masterclass in comic acting.
As the love affair intensifies, Rachel Garnet's writing echoes the illicit and secretive nature of the original. The lovers have to meet late at night and leave early in the morning, wondering if in 500 years time a love such as theirs no longer needs to be hidden. Instead of Romeo and Juliet pleading with each other to stay just a little longer, it's Tybalt and Mercutio who say these famous lines:
"Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day. It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear. Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate tree. Believe me, love, it was the nightingale. It was the lark, the herald of the morn, No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east. Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops. I must be gone and live, or stay and die."
A wonderful farcical scene ensues as Tybalt leaves the bedroom without being caught by the servant. But the lovers have to devise a plan to cover themselves; a staged fight is to take place. It doesn't go to plan, Romeo steps in and inadvertently causes Tybalt to really injure Mercutio. As he dies, he continues to talk with his usual cynical wit using Shakespeare's words. "No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man."
The distraught Tybalt faces a dilemma - kill Romeo or die alongside his secret lover. You can probably guess which way that goes!
Staged in the wonderful Wilton's Music Hall, this is the perfect setting for this take on 'starcrossed lovers'.
We were guests of Wilton's.
Creative team :
Director Philip Wilson
Set & Costume Designer Ruari Murchison
Lighting Designer Simisola Majekodunmi
Music & Sound Director Harry Blake
Fight Director Haruka Kuroda
Casting Director Harry Blumenau
General Management Arden Entertainment
When: On now until Saturday 25 June, 2022
Where: Wilton’s Music Hall
London E1 8JB
Monday - Saturday at 7.30 p.m.
Thursday and Saturday at 2.30 p.m.
Running time: approximately 2 hours (including interval)
Venue Website: http://www.wiltons.org.uk/
Box Office: 020 7702 2789
Tickets: from £15.00