British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database
Romeo and Juliet (1992): Bristol Old Vic
PrRomeo and Juliet (1992)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Caroline Bliss (Nurse); Simon Day (Paris, Tybalt); Suzanne Packer (Mercutio); Clarence Smith (Romeo); Geraldine Somerville (Juliet).
This production ran from 29 January - 29 February 1992.
As well as having Clarence Smith in the lead as Romeo, this production also seems to have had a considerable amount of cross-gender casting with several females playing traditionally male roles.
"The new season at the Bristol Old Vic under the directorship of Andrew Hay opens with a democratic version of Romeo and Juliet. The idea, according to the director, is to stage Shakespeare (whose works he depressingly describes as the 'soap operas of his time') in the close, intimate manner once associated with this gorgeous theatre. The stage has thus been returned to its original Georgian configuration, with some seats actually on the stage. This is a young mixed company, so some male parts are necessarily played by women, in this case Mercutio and Benvolio. The idea of this gender-bending is not to exaggerate these characters' femininity. On the contrary, Suzanne Packer's Mercutio positively fizzles with testosterone. Lithe and horny, she is forever thrusting her pelvis and grabbing at her codpiece as if to prove the point. Romeo (Clarence Smith) seems, if anything, the more restrained - a bemused adolescent smitten with the most prosaic, matter-of-fact Juliet (Geraldine Somerville) I've seen. This flame-haired heroine garbles her inner thoughts on her balcony in a flat, classless monotone, galloping breakneck to the end of every line. They are an unbalanced couple; poor Romeo can never seem to get a word in edgeways....Throughout you get the trappings of 'rough theatre'. This means that people wander about drawing invisible swords to sound effects and reading letters in elaborate charade fashion. Instead of being a coherent stylistic statement, it looks like the show's budgeting went wrong; it is also inconsistent with the pantiled realism of a Veronese courtyard constructed upstage. Although this Romeo is lightweight stuff, the new Bristol ensemble has a raw, appealing energy that puts down an encouraging marker for the coming season." ~ Robert Gore-Langton, "Roughing up Romeo", Daily Telegraph, 11 February 1992
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