Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stratford's Romeo and Juliet a lacklustre production

Romeo and Juliet
Stratford Festival
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tim Carroll
Festival Theatre
Runs until October 19
Approximate running time: two hours and 50 minutes (with one interval)
Tickets: 1-800-567-1600 (toll-free) or 519-273-1600

Review by Geoff Dale

If nothing else, this particular Romeo and Juliet may be remembered as one of the strangest versions to make its way to Stratford, not because it tampered in any real way with the basic story but largely due to its incredibly odd ending and some less than spectacular acting.

With all due respect, there is no need for a spoiler alert here, rather a cautionary warning. Yes, both our tragic ill-fated prepubescent lovers die but much to our amazement, they are resurrected just in time to take part in a rousing song and dance number that would make the producers of TV’s cloying Glee recoil in embarrassment and horror.

Whether this bizarre conclusion to the nearly three-hour production was the idea of director Tim Carroll or perhaps one of the music directors, Franklin Brasz or Rick Fox, really doesn’t matter. It was so comically out of place.

Hats off to the efforts of the quartet of talented musicians in other spots but their participation at this particular moment was for another time, another place and certainly not the concluding scene of Shakespeare’s tragic last scene.

Sadly it was difficult to pick out the worthy elements of this production, beginning with the cast. On the positive side, Sara Topham took a gallant and largely successful stab at the 14-year-old Juliet of the Capulets. She exuded passion, sincerity and was believable capturing both the innocence and awakening desires of someone so young.

Jonathan Goad, while clearly hamming it up rather mercilessly as Romeo’s boisterous hot-headed young friend, delivered his lines with exuberance, showing he had learned his rudimentary fencing skills well. His portrayal may not sit well with some purists but it was particularly sad when he is dispatched by the nasty Tybalt (Tyrone Savage) in such short order because it meant the end of one of the play’s more palatable, if not delightfully over-the-top, characters.

Tom McCamus was an effective Friar Laurence, playing the role earnestly and with a much-appreciated helping of wit and Savage was appropriately vile to the core. Those were very decent performances that deserved to be in another more vibrant production, one that didn’t appear much of the time to be absolutely sleep-inducing.

While some cast members seemed downright disinterested, others were simply unbearable. First there was Antoine Yared’s Paris, who was such an annoying fop, one kept wishing he would meet his maker much sooner. Alas the bard’s text does not allow for such wholesale tampering. So he remained to the bitter end, in time to join the vaudevillian chorus line of mourners and the dead.

Unfortunately the least appealing performance of the night came from the apparently miscast Daniel Brière, whose lifeless Romeo was simply wooden, oddly comparable in some ways to Laurence Harvey’s cold-as-ice standoffish juvenile hero in the 1954 flick.

Lastly, the Montagues and Capulets played out their hatred on one of most barren dimly-lit sets to be seen at the Festival in recent times, apparently the director’s nod to what an afternoon show in an Elizabethan playhouse would have looked that. Such minimalism is a key element for plays like Waiting for Godot but Carroll’s grasp at authenticity didn’t work here.

Not a terribly auspicious start to the 2013 Festival. Romeo and Juliet gets only ** out of 4 stars.

2 stars out of 4

Geoff Dale is an Oxford County theatre reviewer and freelance writer/photographer, this review is also posted on his blog Freelance and Fiction and in the Theatre Review section of The Beat Magazine.  Geoff Dale also happens to be my better half  ;- }

Photo: Daniel Brière as Romeo is pictured with Sara Topham in the role of Juliet. Photo by Cylla von Riedemann.


  1. Well that's a shame after all the hoopla (real word) on the news.

    1. The good news is that Fiddler on the Roof (last night's opening) was wonderful! I'll be posting Geoff's review of it tonight.

  2. Oh dear. If it ain't broke DON'T fix it.