Romeo and Juliet

Victoria Baths

Site-specific theatre is a tricky business.  Putting on a play in an iconic building does not necessarily make it better.  But ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Victoria Baths is one production where the play and the location combine to make something many times the sum of the parts.

By setting ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the Victoria Baths, Director Walter Meierjohann creates an intense, claustrophobic experience where the world of the two warring families is presented in sometimes brutal fashion.  The faded glory of the building, the physical walls of the setting and the tension built by the actors and music drive this play towards an inevitable conclusion.  The flash points between the two families are played out in front of us, around us, using all three dimensions of the Victoria Baths.  There is never anywhere else that the vital action could take place. The space is used completely so that this feels less like a play and more like an intrusion into someone else’s life.  We are part of the story.

It’s a difficult space to act in, the acoustics could have been poor and access can be restricted by the audience.  However the acting is superb across the whole cast.  I saw this on a preview night and am sure that as the run progresses there will be a developing interaction between cast and audience; I only wish there were tickets still available for the final week.

In the composer’s programme notes, Nikola Kodjabashia states that ‘The whole piece is a ‘bricolage’ of text, music, movement, pictures, cultural identities and things you might find in Shakespeare reflecting on non-English history.’  The music is a key element of this play.  It is an extra actor, it sets pace, tension, mood.  It works with the text all the way through.  Like the play itself, it’s broadly Eastern European, but defies exact definition.

There are some particularly memorable scenes – the opening exchanges between the two families, the ball scene, Romeo and Juliet’s short time alone together, Romeo in banishment.  As for the final scene, you just have to see it.  It is a testament to the brilliant vision of Director and Designer.

This is just a superb production.

 

 

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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