Staff Review/ Romeo & Juliet

HOME Digital Reporter Ben Williams reviews our current production Romeo & Juliet

We all know the story. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, they fall in love, tear everyone’s life apart and then everybody dies. Well yes but Walter Meierjohann’s directorial debut as artistic director of HOME is a little bit special. Hot on the heels of the brilliant Angel Meadow this latest piece of site-specific theatre is staged within the semi-restored glory of Manchester’s beautiful Victoria Baths. Those with high expectations will not be disappointed.

Like with Angel Meadow, this production has been shrouded in secrecy and there is a palpable sense of excitement as you step into the unknown of Chorlton-upon-Medlock’s Grade II listed building. There are only a couple of clues that you’re not here for a swim, the staging is subtle enough to allow the faded glory of the baths to take centre stage.

Those with standing tickets literally find themselves in the deep end as the play bursts into life around them. I won’t ruin any surprises here, but we start at a great pace with fantastically choreographed set pieces and and incredible percussion driven soundtrack which punches the tension into the room.

The cast are energetic and colorful and while they might look a little bit like an Urban Outfitters catalogue they deliver with some standout performances. Ruth Everett’s Lady Capulet, Rachel Atkins’s Nurse and Ncuti Gatwa’s Mercutio all spring to mind as well as Griffin Stevens seemingly channelling Vincent Cassell’s character from Eastern Promises.

The production is slick and only occasionally was I aware of its three hours running time. That said, those with standing tickets should not be sheepish about sitting on the edge of the pool, your legs will thank you for it later.

It didn’t all work for me. There is a pop medley in the middle that felt out of place and although I enjoyed the Eastern European feel it didn’t seem completely consistent. I found this spoiled-hipster take on Romeo hard to like, let alone fall in love with. That said, Sara Vickers and Alex Felton are a convincing match who you will care about before the stunning conclusion.

This is a spectacular production which nobody who attends will ever forget. While the building will get many plaudits (and rightly so), it is the production team who have created an incredibly dark and beautiful atmosphere within it.

Romeo & Juliet runs from Wed 10 Sep – Sat 4 Oct 2014 at Victoria Baths. The production is now sold out. Booking is open for Best of BE FESTIVAL, The Events and Insomnia. All productions run down at Number One First Street this Autumn.