This production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet will not fail to charm. Every actor gets inside the skin of their character, and their zest for life is evident from the first scene of this love story set in Verona.
Playing Juliet, Olivia Sewell has great presence and passion, and embodies the stubbornness of youth as she conducts conversations in her head about her love. She is sincere and courageous, but scared of her first love – the strength of feeling threatens to overwhelm her. John Black is convincingly earnest as Romeo, always love struck, consumed by Cupid’s arrows to the heart. His conspirators are great fun: Jack Kristiansen as Mercutio, who likes the sound of his own voice, and Benjamin Baeza as and Benvolio, trying to bring some semblance of normality to otherwise potentially farcical scenes.
An enigmatic monk, Friar Lawrence, is played with alacrity by Robert Cohen but don’t get confused – he’s also Tybalt. Friar Lawrence shapes the destiny of Romeo and Juliet more than anyone can imagine, with a cunning that one may not expect from a man who has taken holy orders. Sophie Methuen Turner's cameo as Juliet's nurse is also worthy of attention, thanks to an entirely intentional lack of self-awareness and a little intrigue.
As Juliet’s father Lord Capulet, Tom Dussek is skilfully patronising, domineering and compassionate in equal measure – arranging his family’s affairs to suit himself and see off rivals for his own affections. The high standard of acting is supported by excellent direction from Thomas Everchild, and the Ropetackle is a very comfortable venue, albeit more geared up for live music than theatre. There is no set, but atmosphere is successfully conjured by the quality of Shakespearean dialogue and acting.
I think the only criticism I can level is at Shakespeare himself, for creating a pair of lovers who bemoaned their own heartache too much in the second half of the play. But this is Shakespearean theatre, not to be judged by the same criteria as a modern TV drama.
I recommend this production of Romeo and Juliet without reservation, and I will look out for further productions by Afterthought Theatre. It’s professional, true to the original text, and fun for all involved. Expect a teenage romance and you won’t be disappointed.