Top marks for trying. For this filmed theatre production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, director David Evans has used technology to carry on working during Covid-19. Using green screens and CGI sets means protective social distancing is possible for a large cast. Unfortunately, the results are uneven; you end up missing live theatre more than ever.
The technology created a lot of work for editor Ryan Metcalfe – his job is mind-boggling – but the results are disheartening. Performing scenes individually, hugely difficult for actors, creates a stilted feel that is too frequently uncomfortable. The detailed planning for each moment is distractingly transparent.
Evans has a firm hand on direction. There is an air of restraint, with many performances understated, as well as physically static, that presumably aided editing. Sensible and understandable, it provides an interesting take for Vinta Morgan’s Friar and works well for Jessica Murrain’s Prince. But most of the time, the reserve becomes monotonal and sometimes downright odd.
Worse still, at a time when so many miss it, the lack of human contact between performers is painful. Moments when characters would have touched, to emphasise any kind of emotion, stand out. You can sense the instincts of performers have been denied. The production is truly of the moment. But could this lack, somehow, have been used poignantly? Instead, it’s just… sad.
The show is saved by its leads (with a little help from Derek Jacobi reading the prologue) and an impressive score from Sam Dinley. Romeo and Juliet do get to touch. Evans has secured a fine Juliet with Emily Redpath. Any struggles come from the role rather than Redpath – as a young woman Juliet’s life is more controlled, an inadvertent insight into the play. Redpath emphasises youth and makes the part moving.
The show belongs to Sam Tutty’s Romeo. The Dear Evan Hanson star is hugely impressive, bringing a natural feel to the lines, without denying their poetry, and a confidence to the part that is captivating. Frequently, his reactions are more interesting than anything else going on. This experiment with a new kind of theatre did not work for me. But fans of Tutty will not be disappointed.
Until 27 February 2020
Photos by credit Ryan Metcalfe / Preevue