Romeo and Juliet
Dundee Rep until Sat 29 Mar
Is Romeo and Juliet really ‘the greatest love story ever told’? The breathy publicity for Dundee Rep’s latest production, featuring young, beautiful, talented actors Hannah Donaldson and Kevin Lennon as the star-cross’d lovers, would suggest so. However, in a contemporary setting, the sudden violence of their five-day relationship does not necessarily move the audience to sympathy – it’s to director James Brining’s credit that he realises this, and draws out fresh, atypical themes from the classic weepie.
Lennon’s Romeo morphs from shambling, lovestruck beatnik to feral psychopath (his brutal execution, and it is an execution, not an accident in the course of a duel) of Paris on Juliet’s grave is a chilling comment on the madness of his ‘love’. Donaldson, best known for the title role of Antigone at the Tron last year, brings that same focussed ferocity to her later scenes, and by having Friar Laurence double up as the chorus, passing silent, remorseful judgement on his own role in the ‘two hours traffic of our stage’ (actually more like three, despite heavy editing of the original text), his comments on the immaturity of the couple’s passion are lent greater emphasis.
Although it’s a less romantic take on the play than usual – Paul Thomas Hickey’s Mercutio is more brawling alky than mercurial imp – this is still an intelligent, warm production, perhaps all the more human because it exposes its characters’ fallibility. The supporting cast, particularly Robert Paterson’s caustic, unhappily married Capulet, are excellent, and the only jarring note comes from a distractingly wobbly set.