It’s the thing these days to reinvent Shakespeare to the point that the Shakespeare inside is barely recognisable. The Lyceum don’t do this. Two year’s ago the Lyceum’s Macbeth was heavily criticised for this but I really enjoyed it. This year’s Romeo and Juliet by contrast has been lauded by the critics, partly for its lack of denial. Again I really enjoyed it.
What this production does is, for the most part, let Shakespeare’s language wash over you like a spa treatment. Enveloping you in a warm bath of language that’s part familiar, part alien. It’s a very compelling and quite riveting experience.
Blessed with a cast of great quality, director, Tony Cownie makes them sing from the off. Liam Brennan stands out as a monumentally great actor and Will Featherstone is superb as Romeo. Others I cared for to slightly lesser degrees and sadly Juliet was, for me, a bit of a disappointment – not that Kirsty Mackay didn’t put her heart and soul into the performance, she just didn’t engage me. It’s a difficult call as act two is an endless lament on her part and so it’s very easy to overstep the mark to the point that Juliet wails once too often.
Aside from that, this is a truly beguiling theatrical experience. Pjhilip Pinsky’s music was, as ever fantastic , and I thought I recognised the central motif which I’m sure was a nod to Craig Armstrong. Like I said earlier, one feels drawn into a different world that doesn’t need a “message for today”. And it hasn’t got a great deal to say metaphorically, politically, socially; it’s just a great piece of theatre deftly and engagingly handled.