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Oddsocks Productions presents

 

Romeo and Juliet

Tanya Hug as Juliet

 

by William Shakespeare

 

Directed By Andy Barrow

 

Arts Theatre

 

15 March – 20 March 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couzens

A review by Angus Templeton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

I’m not a fan of Romeo and Juliet, I’ve seen it too many times. Too much time spent at high school, university, and with ex girlfriends in movie theatres watching various versions to be really sold on it as a play anymore. So when I tell you that Oddsocks’ Romeo and Juliet is worth watching, you can believe that I’m stating the truth.

Oddsocks is an interesting company. Since the late eighties they’ve pantomized (to perform a pantomime version thereof) various productions of Shakespeare as well as other classic writers – Victor Hugo, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Dickens to name a few. This is an excellent way for newcomers to get to grips with some of our culture’s classic heavy stories, and for those of us in the know, it’s a light parody of a tale we’re already familiar with.

This version of Romeo and Juliet is set between two competing Italian restaurants, one catering to pizza (and looking a lot like Pizza Hut) and the other selling pasta. In the middle of this, Romeo and Juliet attend a costume party where, through the help of a giant fish tank (sound familiar?) they fall in love and are subsequently married by Fryer Laurence. For those who’ve never seen Romeo and Juliet before, I won’t spoil the ending. I’ll just let you know that normally it isn’t a comedy.

Despite the heavy punning, irreverence to source material and occasional musical numbers, by far the most impressive part of this show was the physical comedy performed by each character. Special props go out to William Finkenrath (playing Capulet) for ascending Juliet’s balcony through a fiat. And also to Andrew McGillan (playing Mercutio to Finkenrath’s Tybalt) for the musical ‘sword’ fight. There are hundreds of moments throughout the performance which showcases the actors’ comedic talents, but it would take far too long and be redundant to list them all here. Suffice to say, if you enjoy comedy, this show is for you.

The set was rather versatile, reflecting Oddsocks experience in performing from the back of an Elizabethan wagon. While it was created mainly of canvas and wood, there were elaborate backdrops of Verona: a deli, pizza place, pasta restaurant, and pre filmed and projected entrances and exits for characters arriving from ‘outside’. (I shudder to think how long that must have taken to set up.) With all this, there was still room for a car and motorbike to engage in a street fight in the middle of the stage – you have to see it to believe it.

While the characterization for the most part was brilliant, the actors sometimes got lost in their outrageous Italian accents. This was a purposefully stylized choice on their behalf, but which led to some scenes being hard to understand, especially given the difficulty in projecting a foreign voice. The actors slipped in and out of modern English as well, gleefully breaking the fourth wall, and pandering to the audience as much as possible, which we all absolutely loved. And while the accents did sometimes get in the way, when so much of the action and comedy is based on physical theatre, it wasn’t nearly so much of an issue as in a more serious production.

The overall problem in merging two such dissimilar styles in one show is that of pacing. Pantomime by default is action packed, fast paced, and with only a few long expositions to break apart the physical comedy and audience interaction. Shakespeare is the opposite – one or two fight scenes per show (unless you’re performing Titus Andronicus) with lots of plot and exposition in between. Commingling the two into one is jarring, and while Andy Barrow has done a magnificent job in this adaptation, there are still scenes throughout which, slow the production down when you’re expecting it to speed up.

Some people think Shakespeare should be performed precisely as he intended it, and this isn’t a production which those people would enjoy. But thinking that is missing the entire point of what Shakespeare was doing – his plays were the crowd pleasers of the day, and Oddsocks has simply expanded on that tradition. So if you like light relief, physical comedy and food fights, then go and see Romeo and Juliet. Even if you don’t (which beggars belief) it’s a good modern adaption in its own right, and serves as an excellent introduction to Shakespeare for those who are too young, or were too well educated to know how much fun he can be.

If you miss R&J for some reason, Oddsocks is also producing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet: The Comedy in the later portions of the year. Details for those two shows, and many others past and present, can be found on their website, http://www.oddsocks.co.uk/theatre


 

Box office: 0845 017 5584

http://artstheatrewestend.com/

Arts Theatre
6-7 Great Newport Street
 London, WC2H 7JB

15 March – 20 March

 7.30pm Sat Matinee 2.30pm

£15/£20/£25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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