Review: Romeo and Juliet

Ex-EastEnder falls for Shakespeare

By John Nathan, February 17, 2011

Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Michelle Collins, with David Ricardo-Pearce, steals the show in her Shakespearian debut

Michelle Collins, with David Ricardo-Pearce, steals the show in her Shakespearian debut

There is much to recommend this version of the greatest of all love stories, with its modern-dress and bare stage.

The fights are spectacular, the lights are almost worth a review of their own, the Octagon's artistic director David Thacker keeps the pace rattling along and ex-EastEnder Michelle Collins gives a captivating performance as Nurse in her Shakespeare debut.

But the star-crossed lovers themselves do not match up. There is not quite the chemistry required between the hyperactive David Ricardo-Pearce as Romeo and impish Jade Anouka as the child bride, Juliet.

He is infatuated, shouts a lot, preens a lot and is in a constant state of agitation, barely able to keep his arms or body still, and with only one volume setting - loud.

She is a waif, by turns coy and giggly, then intense and inconsolable, whizzing through her lines at such speed that it is sometimes hard to de-code the play's language. And despite a bit of groping and kissing, they fail to convince that they share a passion strong enough to overcome the bitter enmity of the Montague and Capulet clans.

The contemporary setting works well, with baseball bats and flick-knives, Nurse's shopping trip with her Gucci carrier bags, and Juliet's father (Rob Edwards) checking his Apple Mac. But the gadgets do make you wonder whether a catastrophic breakdown in communications - on which the play hinges - could have readily been resolved with a quick text message.

The weakness of the two main characters aside, this is a more than watchable production, with a compelling appearance by Collins. She makes the role of Nurse her own, eclipsing the bigger roles with a full-blooded performance.

Rob Edwards plays a menacing Capulet, suave in his dinner suit but a megalomaniac who bullies and humiliate poor Juliet while the haughty Lady Capulet (Paula Jennings) seems, quite deliberately, to lack an ounce of maternal instinct.

Colin Connor, as Friar Lawrence, also merits a mention as another performer in the production to overdo the decibel levels. He could probably be heard outside the theatre with his enormous, booming voice.

There is barely more than a dining table as a prop, and the most utilitarian of balconies, which cleverly doubles as the entrance to the Capulet family tomb, where Juliet lies.

Thacker, who has vast Shakesperian experience having formally worked with the RSC - makes effective use of the in-the-round staging, using every inch of the intimate space.

(Until March 5. Tel: 01204 520 661)

Last updated: 3:11pm, February 18 2011