On Monday we made our way through the Bankside Bank Holiday crowds to visit the Globe Theatre for the first time this year - believe me, there will be a few blogs from there this season! Odd as up until last year it was a theatre I was not keen on but with several involving 2014 productions (TITUS ANDRONICUS, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, JULIUS CAESAR) this year we are going Globe crazy.
My two previous visits to productions of Shakespeare's tale of star-cross'd lovers have left me rather unsatisfied - the most recent being the underwhelming National Theatre one in 2000 which was only memorable for Chiwetel Ejiofor's Romeo. Neither was a patch on Baz Luhrmann's wonderful updated 1996 film with it's charismatic pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
Although I was apprehensive that the Globe's production is a touring version with a cast of only 8 actors it actually proved to be a good production that certainly concentrated the mind for the "two hours traffic" of the stage.
Being the Globe needless to say the production was bookended with a song and dance routine, this time a frantic Eastern European-style tune. I know it's all part of the roister-doistering Globe ethos but it's a bit jarring after the big death scene at the end.
As I said it's only a cast of 8 so there is a lot of doubling-up - almost comically so at one point when Matt Doherty as Tybalt walks upstage, slings on a robe and is back as Paris! Maybe one more actor would have given the rest of the cast at least a chance to catch their breath.
Luckily Samuel Valentine's Romeo and Cassie Layton's Juliet don't get to double up - that really would be daft! I really liked Cassie Layton's performance, she spoke the verse with great passion and made the most of her soliloquies, Valentine (ha!) was suitably trouble-tossed as our ginger Romeo but couldn't quite match Layton in the desperate passion stakes.
The stand-out supporting performance was Sarah Higgins as the Nurse, played with a broad Scottish accent, who stole every scene she was in with brio. Also making an impression was the louche tattooed Mercutio of Steffan Donnelly (sadly his Queen Mab speech was nearly drowned out by a circling helicopter!) and the muscular Tybalt, clueless servant Peter and impassioned Paris of Matt Doherty.
Dominic Dromgoole (in his last season as Artistic Director) and Tim Hoare's direction focuses the action well with a stripped down production acted in and around a tall trestle platform and gives us a ROMEO AND JULIET which grips and moves in equal measure.
As I said the production is touring around the UK until August so it is well worth checking the website to see if it's coming near you.