Pros: Awe inspiring surroundings add gravitas to Shakespeare’s most famous play.
Cons: The church gets quite cold as the evening wears on.
Antic Disposition can’t be faulted in their choice of venue for this highly polished staging of Romeo and Juliet. Off Middle Temple Lane, just behind Fleet Street, Temple Church has a jaw dropping splendour that hits you the very second you cross the threshold. Built in the 12th Century by the Knights Templars, it positively drips with history; tomb effigies flanked the stage as the nave section, or round church, played host to the unfolding drama. While explanation should be superfluous, a brief refresher might be in order; 16th Century Verona is paralysed by warring factions of the Capulet and Montague clans. The ambitious Capulets have their sights set on Count Paris as suitor for their only daughter Juliet. Meanwhile, the Monatgues only son, Romeo pines for the distant, cold heated Rosaline. Romeo and Juliet later meet at a masked ball and fall instantly in love. They marry secretly but old scores between the two families continue to simmer, Mercutio and Tybalt both perish in the crossfire and Romeo is banished. Romeo and Juliet try to reunite but ultimately meet a tragic end.
The action cracks along at a steady pace with each character carving their own individual niche in the play. Costumes are contemporary 21st Century chic, which complements rather than distracts from the beautiful historic setting. Tybalt and Benvolio strut around in Hawaiian shirts and cutaway jeans; they looked like a couple of lads on holiday in Tenerife; Friar Laurence incongruently sports Doc Martins, ripped jeans and full length leather overcoat – but it all works beautifully. The cast are confident players and the direction is crisp and clear.
Some might argue it would be difficult to get a production of Romeo and Juliet wrong in such a fine setting. However, the venue remains a challenging space to work in. The technical nous shown by the creatives was most impressive and they clearly understood and made use of the venue’s spatial potential. The lighting was cannily set to make the most of a simple raised platform and long sweeping interiors, framing very actor with hugely imposing shadows as they took the stage. The lights turned a seductive crimson as the masked ball began. The stained glass window overlooking the main entrance beamed a thousand shades of primary colour as spotlights dimmed and brightened. Sound dynamics within the church were absolutely amazing as a spine tingling echo seemed to bounce with every syllable uttered – the audio-visuals were simply stunning.
The cast were similarly striking; Dylan Kennedy as Romeo and Bryony Tebbutt as Juliet were both smart leads in the title roles, and actually well suited as a couple. Andrew Bolton was in commanding form as head of the Capulet family as was Russell Anthony as Friar Laurence. This production succeeds through sound, casting, direction and design, but scores extra points in way they use a unique venue.
Author: William Shakespeare
Directors: Ben Horslen and John Riseboro
Producer: Antic Disposition
Music: James Burrows
Choreographer: Richard Jones
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ad1
Booking Until: 7 September 2014.