DVD Review: Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The world is not thy friend”

When does one know that one has seen the definitive interpretation of a particular show? And who gets to decide these things? I’m not quite sure, but watching the Globe’s 2009 production of Romeo & Juliet on DVD, I very much got the feeling that Rupert Goold’s RSC version might just be as good as this play will ever get.

Neither lead performer really captures or engages the heart and convinces of the inevitability of their journey. Adetomiwa Edun and Ellie Kendrick have the teenage precocity but their youthfulness works against articulating a genuine sense of capricious, all-encompassing love: there’s no charisma to their performances and so little is really invested in their plight.

I liked Miranda Foster’s frustrated Lady Capulet and Ian Redford’s irascible yet avuncular Capulet. Penny Layden’s Nurse was just superb though, less of a plotter so much as someone finding a solution in desperation alongside Rawiri Paratene’s Friar. I found it a little odd to have Tom Stuart’s Paris as played as more of a ridiculous fop than a genuine catch and Philip Cumbus suffered by (unwitting) comparison as Jonjo O’Neill still lingers strong in the mind. I’ve never been a fan of the broader comedy stylings that often emerge at the Globe and found they worked even less well on film but the use of music translated well with some lovely songs and a final note has to go to Jack Farthing’s beautifully compassionate Benvolio, one of the best performances in the cast.

The capturing of live theatre is always a tricky thing, especially when there is such a unique experience as an audience member at the Globe, and some of the choices made in the filming here demonstrate this difficulty a bit too clearly. Generally speaking, the filming was too filled with jumpcuts and just a bit too close for my liking, exposing the logistics of people-moving on the stage to a distracting degree and keeping the faces of the audience just too present where the focus should be squarely on the acting. If I’ve bought a dvd, I personally don’t want to see other people enjoying themselves but rather as much of the actors as I can get.

Even without the glorious memory of the RSC’s revelatory production, I don’t think this is a Romeo and Juliet that will linger long in the mind nor really deserving of it, and so ultimately it comes across as an odd choice to record for posterity. There’s some interesting choices and the characteristic depth to much of the supporting cast who offer good interpretations of familiar roles, but the show rides on its titular characters and though Kendrick and Edun do well at portraying the impetuousness of youth, they fail at convincing at the tragic depth and so I’d say it is one to rent rather than to buy.

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