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Romeo and Juliet (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Romeo and Juliet

Society: Shakespeare at The George

Venue: The George Hotel’s Jacobean courtyard, Huntingdon.

Credits: William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet

4 stars

I’ve seen most of Shakespeare at the George’s work in recent years. It’s always reliably enjoyable but with this show the company really achieves new heights.

The changed setting – 1950s – injects real freshness with full skirts, layers of petticoats, elastic belts and colourful teddy boy gear.  So does the casting of several talented actors I’ve not seen before. And you couldn’t find a finer set for this play than The George’s Jacobean courtyard which has a three sided balcony over the playing area accessed by evocatively balustered steps at stage left. No designer could better it.

Another element of freshness I admired was the decision to cast and rework several male characters as women and adjust the text accordingly. Thus Benvolia (Goergie Bickerdike – lovely performance) becomes a feisty, best-mate type of girl and Rosemary Eason’s well judged Abbess Julienne replaces Friar Lawrence.

Juliet is now 18 not 14.  Heather Bambridge makes her wide-eyed, very girlish, a bit clumsy and totally natural. It’s a very plausible, beautifully enacted interpretation. Lynne Livingstone’s broad Scots nurse delights too. She is voluble, caring, frumpy, anguished – a terrific range. And how long did it take Livingstone to perfect that wonderfully observed walk – not quite a limp but deliciously awkward – I wonder? Nearly all her scenes are, of course, with Bambridge and they work seamlessly together.

Jordan White finds all the right boyishness, maturing love and anguish in Romeo and manages to convince the audience that yes, under those circumstances, we’d all opt for him in preference to Dean Laccohee’s ludicrous but perfectly acted Paris in scarlet, leopard pattern edged jacket and a jet black wig.

Richard Socket’s Capulet is a seriously sinister Mafia type with none of the usual irritable geniality and Paula Inceldon-Webber is strong as his wealthy, vengeful wife totally focused on her own interests until the death of her daughter finally gets to her at the end.

Ah yes – the end. It’s played, obviously at this time of year, as night falls and feels as tragically unnecessary as it should, as well as being solemnly atmospheric.  I also loved the way this show started with the famous prologue spoken by Perry Incledon-Webber as the Chief of Police (replacing the Duke of Verona) while the agonised families stand by two coffins, united in grief. And at the end Incledon-Webber is down stage speaking the final words as the cast group behind him so there’s a pleasing sense of symmetry.

Bravo director Steph Hamer, assistant director Reuben Milne and everyone they worked with on this impressive show.

First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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