It was a wet Tuesday evening when I travelled to the Cork Opera House to see the acclaimed Romeo and Juliet, a production by the Corcadorca Theatre Company. I always loved going to the Opera House as it gave me a sense of class and culture. This diminished when I realised that I managed to pick the performance where the audience was comprised largely of Junior Cert students. It became clear, from the off, that these playful teens were not here by choice, as my friend and I were. It also became clear that all others who came to see it by choice were on a date.
Walking to our seats, our attention was fixed upon the stage. The set was mesmerising from the beginning. It was amazing to see something so simple achieve so much. Each of the three sides was split into two floors, with six doorways on each floor and a staircase on the left and right hand side of the stage. Everything was painted white and the doorways were black to cover backstage. For me, it also created a sense of mystery. Before the show began, quotes from the play were projected onto the white stage. The simplicity of the set gave emphasis to the words and the contrast of light and dark gave an eerie touch to the atmosphere.
The house lights went down and we got a glimpse of the costumes for the first time. They had not gone down the original route with Shakespearean fashion; rather the costumes were reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 re-make of the classic with the Hawaiian shirts and laidback style. I found it easier to connect with as it was modernised. The language remained the same as ever but the deliverance of the lines proved that these actors had studied their part and the language well. I had no problem understanding the meaning behind this complex tongue.
The acting itself was rather impressive also – with the male leads, in particular, standing out. John Doran, who played the part of Mercutio, was staggeringly comedic. I found myself quite disappointed when he was killed as I knew no one else could lighten the dark mood as he so effortlessly did. He was very popular among the teens especially, though his own friskiness did result in the teens becoming hyper and frisky themselves. Charlie Kelly, as Benvolio, was very strong throughout and I was delighted that he didn’t have to die. Arthur Riordan’s performance as Friar Laurence was very poignant.
A character that won me over for the first time since my reading of the play was the nurse as she was played wonderfully by Dorothy Duffy. I empathised with the nurse as never before and I did not find her annoying for once. Her relationship with the servant Peter, played by Anthony Morris, was also very humorous to watch.
I was taken aback by the performance of Jay Duffy, as Romeo. Call me cynical, but prior to the play, I was slightly dubious about his casting because of the fact that his father is so high-up in the Irish celebrity world. I was gladly proven wrong by the youngster’s performance and as the play went on, I found myself loving him for a reason and the reason was love.
I liked Juliet more so in the first half than in the second. However, this is more to do with the fact that I don’t especially like Juliet as a character to begin with. Really, if you’re going to fake your own death, the least you could do is tell your husband the plan yourself. Anyway, she was played well by Aisling Franciosi, and more than anything, I was impressed by her ability to cry on command – seeing the track of mascara down her face after the murder of her cousin and the banishment of her lover, made me glow with pride.
Lighting and sound were used to great effect and a particular favourite of mine was the sound of a clock ticking. Time was running out and some body clocks were about to stop.
Despite the constant sniggering and rustling of crisp packets around me – thanks to those splendid Junior Certers – my attention was grabbed and held by everything and everyone on the stage. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening and the standing ovation at the end was, most definitely, deserved.