A WEDDING AND FIVE FUNERALS
British corporate thriller writer AA Abbott reviews Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol.
For those who haven’t seen it, remember that Romeo and Juliet, often billed as a love story, is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Early in the play it seems possible that the two stylish and hot-headed Italian families, the Capulets and Montagues, will reconcile their differences. Sadly, a fatal brawl puts paid to that. Dying from a stab wound, Mercutio curses both families, and you know it won’t end well. The body count rises steadily, finally settling at five. Bless him, the Bard of Avon manages a message of hope at the very end.
The Tobacco Factory offers theatre in the round, in a small, intimate space. That means you can see the whites of the actors’ eyes, and every emotion on their faces: excitement, despair, tension, sympathy. There is literally no hiding place for them, and they rise to the occasion with sparkling performances. It helps that the cast are mostly young and gorgeous. Daisy Whalley as Juliet is an entirely believable fourteen year old, innocent of her beauty and gushing with excitement when she falls in love. Fiona Sheehan as her mother is supposed to be around thirty and is a sexy woman of the world, clearly besotted with her hunky husband.
Costumes and setting reference la Dolce Vita, with jeans, ponytails and beehives the order of the day. Had the Capulets sped off on Vespas, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The music is Sixties-inspired too, including a throbbing synthesiser beat at the masked ball where gate crasher Romeo meets Juliet. One glimpse of her gold lurex mini-dress, and he’s putty in her hands.
The two comic characters, fey, hyperactive Mercutio (Oliver Hoare) and cheeky dolly bird Nurse (Sally Oliver) deserve special mention. They keep the spirit of the play upbeat right until the final bloodfest.
Enthralling, electric and always entertaining – this is Shakespeare at its best. Get to see it if you can!
Romeo and Juliet runs at the Tobacco Factory until 4th April 2015, or you can catch the summer tour
from Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory at:
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham 13-16 May
The Dukes, Lancaster, 19-23 May
Neuss Globe Shakespeare Festival (Germany) 28-31 May
Theatre Royal, Winchester, 2-6 June
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough – 9-13 June
Derby Theatre, 16-20 June
Salisbury Playhouse, 23-27 June
About the Tobacco Factory
The Tobacco Factory itself is a brilliant venue and worth a visit to Bristol in its own right. It’s a huge, redbrick cube which really used to be a Tobacco Factory – Bristolians of a certain age go misty-eyed when they talk about working there. Local architect George Ferguson bought it in a derelict state and created a theatre, dance studio, offices and restaurants within it. In doing so, he single-handedly regenerated Southville, an area dominated by pound shops fifteen years ago and now Yummy Mummy Central. George, recently elected Bristol’s Mayor, lives in considerable style in a bachelor pad on the top floor. He’d be a fascinating subject for a novel if anyone were brave enough to write it…