Romeo & Juliet by Unmasked Theatre Company
Romeo & Juliet
I was invited by Unmasked Theatre company to attend their production of Romeo & Juliet at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley. Unmasked Theatre company is a company that focuses on ‘modernised stage adaptations of classic literature’ and previous works have included Anthony & Cleopatra and The Trojan Woman.
Romeo & Juliet is a production that has been told and retold in numerous ways over the years with the variety of the themes within the play proving interesting focal points. Unmasked Theatre company set the show in Milan in 1910 where old money clashes with new money and religion is a central theme. In order to modernise a show the decisions and direction needs to be bold and this was not the case. The modernisation felt confused and had I not read the programme I would not have been clear as to when or where it was set or the altered concept. I found it difficult to pinpoint how their version differed from the numerous productions that have been staged before, other than on a superficial level.
Some moments had some glimpses of hope, for example the use of ‘Take Me To Church’ as Juliet arrives for her wedding to Romeo however the other music used failed to make an impact. In modern adaptations music can be a powerful tool and unfortunately this was not utilised to its maximum potential.
I did however find their production of Romeo & Juliet very accessible and easy to follow, which can be a problem with some Shakespeare productions. The cast fully understood the text and their emotion and commitment to the text helped with this understanding.
I did however enjoy the performances by the cast. In particular I found Alysha Finch as Juliet very strong. She showed a clear development from a young naive girl to a headstrong woman in love. I also enjoyed her relationship with Kayley-Ann Raiton who played the Nurse who clearly had a stronger bond with Juliet than her own mother. I would however suggest that some of the body language used by Kayley-Ann is too young for her character and established herself more as a friend rather than a mentor for Juliet. If this was the purpose then the delivery of some of the text in Act 2 needs to be addressed.
Unamsked Theatre company have an admirable vision with modernisation of classic texts however in order to succeed on a regular basis with this concept I would like them to be more bold. This coupled with their talented cast would certainty help steer them towards much more exciting performances.