1 August 2014 | mhk11
an uneven production
This uneven production includes more of the text than do most productions, but it still omits many lines. Some of the omissions are well-judged abridgments of the tiresome banter between Romeo and his friends or between the servants and the musicians. Other deletions are much more dubious, as we're deprived of some great poetic lines. Some of the excisions in III.i (along with the staging of the sword fights in that scene) have the effect of presenting Tybalt as a less bellicose character than the full text suggests.
The best performances are those of Michael Hordern (Capulet), Celia Johnson (Nurse), Anthony Andrews (Mercutio), Alan Rickman (Tybalt), and Joseph O'Conor (Friar Laurence). None of those performances is impeccable, but each of them is at a high level.
Rebecca Saire (Juliet) is not up to the demands of her role in some of the crucial scenes in the first half of the play, but she improves considerably after a mediocre rendering of the "Gallop apace" soliloquy. Patrick Ryecart (Romeo) is excellent in the bedroom scene, but his performance otherwise ranges from poor in the early parts of the play to mediocre in the later parts. Ryecart too often substitutes expressionless reciting for acting. In the balcony scene he is unintentionally hilarious, as he keeps crashing to the ground after ascending a wall. Moreover, whereas Saire's physical appearance is just right for Juliet, Ryecart's physical appearance is unlikely to set aflutter the heart of any fourteen-year-old girl.
The sword fights are staged more impressively than in any of the other BBC Shakespeare productions, and the sets are generally well crafted. This production on the whole is pretty good, but it could have been excellent if the eponymous characters had been better portrayed.