(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/3.)
Rupert Goold's sensational production of this problematic play sails into London from Stratford with all guns blazing. Signalling the start of a five-year partnership between the RSC and the Roundhouse, it combines Goold's trademark visual bravura with intellectual coherence.
The young lovers, in this version, are acknowledged to be figures who exist beyond time: hence the initial appearance of Sam Troughton's Romeo as a gap-year student listening to Shakespeare's prologue on headphones. Yet, although the lovers have achieved mythic status, they are also seen as products of a particularly hot-blooded, intemperate Catholic culture. Fire is the motif of this production with torches piercing the darkness, Benvolio being set alight in the opening fight and flames flickering hellishly against the back wall of Tom Scutt's set. Georgina Lamb's pounding dances and Terry King's inventive fights, with Tybalt suddenly producing a dagger from a mailed fist, add to a world in which violent delights have violent ends.
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