Romeo and Juliet (2005): Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
PrRomeo and Juliet (2005)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Andrew Buchan (Mercutio); Andrew Garfield (Romeo); Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Juliet); Maggie McCarthy (Nurse); Faz Singhateh (Tybalt).
This production ran from 7 September - 22 October 2005.
"It is hard to think of new ways to do Shakespeare's well-worn tale of love's young tragedy, but young Jacob Murray might have come up with one. His revival, which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Juliet and Andrew Garfield as Romeo, not only boasts genuinely young actors in the lead roles, but relocates the play to the Italy of Federico Fellini as portrayed in films such as La Dolce Vita. The late 1950s and early 1960s gives Murray the opportunity to explore a world in which modern youth and culture was beginning to make itself felt in a society still dominated by religious traditions and which had hardly recovered from the post-war period of austerity." ~ Lyn Gardner, The Guardian: The Guide, 3 September 2005
"Imagine Romeo and Juliet without a balcony. In Jacob Murray's attractively simple production, the heights of passion are confined to the Royal Exchange floor. But there's no lack of emotional charge in this youthful production led by Andrew Garfield and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the lovers....Murray cites Italian movies as his inspiration, but there's little feel here of La Dolce Vita or any other Italian neorealist film. Evidence of spiritual decay and moral depravity is minimal, though some images convey something of, say, Fellini's style. Simmering violence erupts in clashing sword-fights, convincingly arranged by Malcolm Ranson, and Lord Capulet (Paul Herxberg) turns a bit nasty when his daughter defines him. Otherwise there's little sense of the extravagance and outrageous eccentricity of the period's culture, though 1960s Italian youth style is there in a brief appearance of the boys on Vespa scooters. The designer Ellen Cairns drapes white gauze over the production like a shroud; it is used as sheets hung out to dry, as a canopy over the lovers' bed, as a wedding dress. Pieces of a Palladian villa facade convey the Capulets' status, and a stone Madonna stands in the corner of the square. Garfield's Romeo comes over as a brooding, sensitive boy, older than his years, Andrew Buchan is excellent as a vivacious Mercutio and hot-blooded aggression colours Faz Singhateh's Tybalt. Maggie McCarthy's earthy Nurse enjoys a good natured alliance with Mbatha-Raw's endearing Juliet." ~ Lynne Walker, Independent, 14 September 2005
"In a sense, theirs [Romeo and Juliet] are the only roles that matter in any production. You can have a gloriously funny Nurse (as we have here in the bulky, bustling figure of Maggie McCarthy); you can have indifferent support elsewhere (as we have here, thanks to some surprisingly uneven casting); but it's the star-crossed sweethearts who must flaunt the emotional substance that informs Shakespeare's exquisite style. As fresh as they are photogenic, Garfield and Mbatha-Raw make an immensely plausible, passionate pair, though it's Garfield - already seen to electrifying effect at the Exchange earlier this year in Kes - who best turns inexperience to his advantage, suggesting raw adolescent vulnerability even when his verse-speaking teeters on sounding too tentative. ~ Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph, 16 September 2005
"You know a production of this most famous of love stories is in trouble when even the Queen Mab speech falls flat...It does have its compensations. Andrew Garfield's pronouncedly young Romeo, pale, skinny and sucking on a cigarette, grows in stature as his love for Juliet develops, only to revert to lost little boy when his murder of Tybalt earns him banishment....As his beloved, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is picture-pretty, but gabbles her lines, making a nonsense of the verse, and has a tendency to signal high emotion by becoming shrill. She's not alone in her struggle with Shakespeare's language: Faz Singhateh as Tybalt and Avin Shah as Benvolio in particular seem to spend much of their time onstage striving to un-twist their tongues." ~ Sam Marlowe, The Times, 19 September 2009
"The fact is, get a decent cast, do a clear, well-paced narrative, and Shakespeare works. But, but, but...What this production needs is a few mornings' work with a ruthless speech expert. Everything is there except the words. Maggie McCarthy (Nurse), Paul Herzberg (Capulet) and John Watts (Friar Laurence) are the only actors who can be clearly heard, word for word, even when they have their backs to you. The actors get no help with pace, rhythm or volume - and volume is not quite the same as decibel levels. Andrew Garfield (Romeo) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Juliet) are clearly bursting with talent, but they both have little mannerisms that could easily have been corrected. Their voices are often overtaxed and the poetry of the lines is mostly beyond them." ~ John Peter, Sunday Times, 2 October 2005, in Theatre Record 2005, Issue 19