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Northern souls

Romeo and Juliet is playing at the Liverpool Playhouse this week – with a new but familiar accent. Reviewer Heather Smith decides if it's any good or not

Published on April 9th 2008.

Northern souls

“O Romeo, Romeo...” OK, so you know how it goes. But, on the off chance that you weren't paying attention in class, or are from Mars... Romeo & Juliet, two star-crossed lovers from rival families who meet by chance and, determined to pursue their forbidden love, they end up paying the ultimate price for their devotion.

Lines such as 'If love be rough with you, be rough with love' sound truly fantastic masked with a gravelly northern husk

This Northern Broadsides production started out in February, in partnership with The New Vic Theatre, Newcastle Under Lyme, where the much respected theatre group, led by actor/director Barrie Rutter have toured for over a decade. It is after successful runs in both Winchester and Leeds that the performance makes its home, for the next four nights at least, on the cosy stage of the Liverpool Playhouse.

The tight-knit ensemble put a charismatic and energetic spin on the classic, and, as pointed out by Theresa Heskins, artistic director at The New Vic, lines such as “If love be rough with you, be rough with love” sound truly fantastic masked with a gravelly northern husk. Whether or not Capulet, played by Rutter, was devoted to this muscular-croak or was suffering from a spot of laryngitis wasn't always to clear but the performance did not suffer for it.

Although quiet to start, Sarah Ridgeway gave an impressive performance as Juliet, which is difficult character to get right; after all, as we are humorously reminded by Nurse, she is only 14. If anything, her early quietness merely stresses the point of how quickly she has to grow up during the play. She performs equally passionately in scenes with both Romeo (Benedict Fogarty) and Nurse (Sue McCormick). The balcony scene is excellent, although the fantastically fiery speech that follows the Nurse's announcement of Tybalt's death does also stick in mind.

Fogarty is a perfect and pretty Romeo, making the sweeping transformations from the cooing courtly lover to banished murderer without a hitch. He also performs particularly well in the early scenes of boyish banter with the excellent Mercutio (Peter Toon) and convincing Benvolio (Chris Nayak).

Nurse and Friar Laurence (Liam Gerrard) were probably the best on the night, winning over the most laughs with the audience. They do, in part they have the script to thank for this as they are blessed with the role of stitching together all the loose ends of the plot; nevertheless, they do a brilliant job.

If you're a fond fan of a song and dance then you'll love this production. The actors, most of whom play a double role, also showcase their musical abilities on more than one occasion. The Capulets' ball, were Romeo and Juliet first meet, is particularly good as a guitar, banjo, violin and double bass to name but a few are all introduced to the stage during a catchy harmonic folk song, creating the authentic scene of good old Italian drunkenness. Excellent.

Be sure to pick up a programme while you're there. The Who's Who? character guide embodies the charisma and fun that the Broadsides have brought to the play and is the provider of many a titter on the way home. A wonderful, warm and well-humoured effort, proving that the classic play remains a must on the modern stage.


Romeo and Juliet, Liverpool Playhouse, Williamson Square, L1, until Saturday
Box office: 0151 709 4776

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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