Pros: Invigorating, creative, clever, unique
Cons: Far longer than it needs to be
After 17 years enjoying London’s fantastic theatres, being able to discover one I haven’t been to is always a delight. The New Diorama is a fantastic 80-seater studio space just off Regents Park. The contemporary architecture is impressive, as is the venue’s ethos for supporting emerging theatre companies and encouraging creativity in the local community.
The venue has its own ensemble called The Faction and it is their bold new production of Romeo and Juliet that opens the New Diorama’s 2015 Rep Season. As we enter the studio the cast, in modern dress, are on stage doing their vocal and physical warm-ups which sets the scene beautifully for those immortal opening words, ‘Two households, both alike in dignity…’. This Shakespearean classic is so well known that unique adaptations are rare. Nevertheless the play’s director, Rachel Valentine Smith, taking elements from Baz Luhrmann’s version and some NYC grit from West Side Story, has managed to create a fantastic and cutting-edge interpretation.
From the outset the cast are vigorous, enthusiastic and work brilliantly as a collective. The two leads are convincing as the star-crossed lovers and some of the scenes, especially the “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo” balcony scene, are beautifully executed. Clare Latham as Juliet is natural, bashful and strong, but her native American accent is a little distracting. Christopher York’s Romeo is passionate, naive and bountiful. In one instance, he comes into the audience and taps an unsuspecting theatregoer (me) and points to his new girlfriend as if to say, ‘She’s well fit!”. The most notable performance is Kate Sawyer as the nurse. Her TOWIE-esque portrayal of this pivotal character is a joy to behold. Tom Brownlee as the Captain America-sock-wearing Mercutio is also superb, in particular his death scene. All nine cast members are on stage for the whole show, which is interesting, but too often off-putting due to the random and odd slow-motion scenes in the background.
Music is an integral part of this production and, engineered by Max Pappenheim, is good fun. However music playing throughout gives one the feeling of watching great theatre above a Dalston club at 4am. I love Chris Wither’s creative use of lighting – the 90s rave in Act I is genius!
The only major flaw is the production’s length. Yes it is Shakespeare, and we know it goes on forever, but as this adaptation was so original in its creative execution, I longed for more editing of the original text to keep the show’s pace alive. This is a great show, but be sure to choose caffeine, not alcohol, at the bar – you’ll be thanking me as the show reaches its third hour!
Director: Rachel Valentine Smith
Booking Until: Saturday February 28th
Booking Info: https://tickets.newdiorama.com/WebPages/EntaWebShow/ShowListAlpha.aspx
Box Office: 020 7383 9034