I just went to see Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, fully expecting to roll my eyes every fifth line, as I have for even the best film adaptations*. I was also expecting to get tired of standing for so long in the yard, but on both counts I was surprised, and I no longer mind that I will be seeing the production at least twice more.

The Globe itself is an experience with its two-storey stage, zodiac roof, and vertical amphitheatric construction. That you can lean right up on the stage for the whole performance is a dream, and the actors periodically mix with the crowd in the yard just to stir things up a bit. The acting company being among the best in the world is another undeniable thrill. Granted Juliet occasionally gushed or rushed a bit, but that was more her take on the character. Juliet’s all of 13 in the script, and Ellie Kendrick captures that age with all its graces and fumbles. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen humor read into the balcony scene, and that was a fantastic change.

Now, this has never been my favorite Shakespeare play in large part because one can only take so much of swooning, doe-eyed men in one sitting. My personal limit is 5 minutes, and this play is 24 times that. Invariably some young Percy Bysshe Shelley gets cast as the hero and proceeds to have a 2-hour wilting contest with Juliet. Thus, my favorite character has always been Mercutio – wag, scoundrel, and classic English wit (even though he’s Italian). This production’s Mercutio was modeled less on Ariel, though, and more along Hamlet lines, with an edginess I never expected. He pinballs between dirty humor, hauntingly lyrical insights, fury, arrogance, and Renaissance punk affection. Now Mercutio has a backstory, and I wish I knew it.

Though Mercutio was the best I’ll probably ever see, he was surpassed by Romeo, who quickly, and for the first time, became my favorite character. Adetomiwa Edun gives him intelligence to match the romance, and there is considerably more bite and play to the words than usual. In his take, Romeo is tangible and more a youth than a retrospective idealization of youthful passion. He has the incredibly handsome face and lovelorn sighs, but alongside wit, humor, and the grace of a cat in a duel. The tragedy is as much the death of the individuals as the death of the lovers, and that transforms the play.

So blow me down, but I can’t wait to go again!

*Which are few. I don’t consider the Leonardo DiCaprio remake to belong here, but our 9th grade English teacher did, so I dry-retched every two lines for that one. On the other hand, I know all the words to ‘What is a Youth’ from the 1968 version (which the same teacher fastforwarded through because of the “hanky panky”), so I leave you to judge my taste.

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