Following a critically acclaimed run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Southampton-based Curious Pheasant brought their innovative production of Romeo And Juliet to the NTC Studio, in what can only be described as a triumphant return to the City. With an elegant piece of timing, this abridged version of the text proved to be a perfect addition to this year’s Southampton Pride celebrations, on the same day.
Here, both Romeo and Juliet are young men, on opposing sides of two fiercely competitive rugby teams – Montague and Capulet, naturally – and this added a deeply intense frisson to their passionate and ultimately doomed love. Troy Chessman (Romeo) and Sam Prentice (Juliet) gave performances of depth, tenderness and subtlety, the dual centrepiece of a uniformly excellent ensemble. Will Bunting made Tybalt a genuinely terrifying creation, while Overs Rezazadeh gave real humour and sensitivity to the tragically sympathetic Mercutio. The play’s producer, Daniel Harris, brought a commanding and believeable authority to the role of Capulet, and director Becky Mills’ Benvolio provided an extra level of genuine emotion, not only with regard to the role, but to the piece as a whole.Among the many fine elements of the production, mention must be made of its superbly choreographed physicality – this was in every sense a high-energy show, very much for our time, not to mention a strong case in favour of attracting new audiences to Shakespeare. When one adds to this the fluid and sensitive direction, the ingeniously chosen music and sound effects, and the company’s excellent delivery and understanding of the text, the overall effect was something very special, and a theatrical experience to linger in the mind for a long time to come. When Benvolio delivered the play’s final line – “Than this of Juliet and HIS Romeo” – I can only say that any unmoistened eyes in the house did not include mine.
This new and innovative company has truly hit the ground running. May they have a long and successful future – producing work of this calibre, they deserve to.