Romeo and Juliet came to Grantham this week, in the form of the Icarus Theatre Collective. Anyone who thought that R&J was for softies will have had something of a shock, as this was as energetic, rude and bloody an affair as any Tarantino fan could hope for. From the off, the playing was superb, clear, vital, and the audience were irresistibly sucked into the high japes and low manoeuvres of a fractious and dangerous Verona. The set was brilliant in its simplicity. You got a balcony and a ladder – that’s it – but with the players smuggling in scene-specific props, that was the only infrastructure needed, and it freed up the stage for this breathtaking performance.
Two clans at war. The son of one falls for the daughter of another, and all hell breaks loose. Not a new idea, even in Shakespeare’s time, but a storyline that highlights the paradoxes, absurdities, joys and injustices that tribalism sustains.
This was very much a play of two halves. The first, a dynamic, joyous affair of rivalry and heart. The second half, a desperate spiral to inevitable death, leaving some in the audience sobbing.
But the play’s the thing, and the players were magnificent. A great performance reveals something fresh to the audience, and for me the great revelation was the central role of the loyal, gauche, Nurse, forcefully played by Gemma Barrett. Indeed, the story arguably centres around the woman who brought up Juliet, and loves and understands her more than any other. The tragedy turns on how Nurse’s well-meaning loyalty and advice to Juliet seal the teenager’s doom. Here is a dark, bloody precedent to Jane Austen’s Emma. The role needed an actor of charisma and sensitivity, and Gemma Barrett’s portrayal of this bruised, well-meaning, loyal woman was electrifying – at times hilarious; at other times, wounded and desperate. Hats off to Ms Barrett.
This was, however, a troupe of equals, with no weak performances. Kaiden Dubois’ Romeo was boy-band gorgeous, and his energetic portrayals of the peaks and pits of first love were life-affirming. In Juliet, Nicole Anderson had a difficult role, playing a young girl exploring her sexuality, caught up in a hard, adult, political world. Whereas her acting was light and devoted in the first half, she came to dominate the stage in the second, pulling the audience into her incomprehending hurt. I heard sniffles behind me as she desperately tried to make sense of Romeo’s banishment. For me, all future Juliets must compare with Nicole Anderson’s vulnerable naive.
David McLaughlin was Mercutio. No, I mean, he really was Mercutio. One of the great challenges for the reader, and presumably the player of this role is the monologue about Queen Mag, which up until now I thought over-egged and over-long. David McLaughlin, though, brought a fresh, physical and funny interpretation to this, and made me wish it wouldn’t end. The interplay between Mercutio and Christopher Smart’s Benvolio was bawdy, witty and knowing – it was like being in a pub with two very rude, but very funny mates. What was fascinating about McLaughlin and Smart’s playing was that they really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and it seemed at times that they were indeed throwing lines around for the sport.
Shock, horror . . . Tybalt was played by a woman, Gabrielle Dempsey. From now on, I want all my Tybalts to be played by women. Actually, I want them all to be played by Gabrielle Dempsey. As soon as she hit the town square, your gaze shifted to the alpha female – beautiful, intelligent, charismatic, athletic – what’s not to like here? But Gabrielle Dempsey’s role amounted to a further departure from the Tybalts of old in that she was admirably dutiful to her family, and reluctant to fight and eventually kill the fun loving Mercutio. As this finest of women sat sobbing next to Mercutio’s corpse, I sensed that Gabrielle Dempsey has transformed Tybalt for ever. Tybalt a man? Never!
Georgina Periam was also excellent as the pragmatic, compromised Lady Capulet, and her scolding of Juliet showed well the regrets within. Hubbie, Lord Capulet , played by the imposing figure of Zachary Holton, provided the gravitas, not just for this role, but as the bemused and sad Prince Escalus, whose city is riven by this bloody affair.
Afterwards, as I was reflecting on the amazing performance, I learnt that this was to be the troupe’s last rendition of Romeo and Juliet. This saddened me, as I would love to see it again. I’ll miss the swordfights, the laughs, the tears . . . Oh well, I shall just have to go to the next show by this freshest, most inventive and passionate of troupes, the Icarus Theatre Collective.
Well done to Director, Max Lewendel and to Guildhall Arts Centre for staging this event. We need more Shakespeare in Grantham, and I’m pleased to see that Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School are staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the theatre, 16-17 July. I will be there.
I took in Icarus Theatre Company’s Spring Awakening purely in the interest of theatrical blogging. That’s my excuse anyway. Teenage sex and nudity lost its appeal years ago. But you don’t often get a major nineteenth century play famed for its controversial themes dropping in on Harpenden. We are more your Rattigan and Coward types, sex wrapped up in polite conversation and nice dresses. Frank Wedekind, in a translation by bad boy Edward Bond, gives you teenage sexual repression full face.
Nothing wrong with that providing you do it well. And this young company, on a stark but imaginative set, can act their German rustic socks off. Pastoral youthful passions writ large. David McLaughlin was an excellent and assured Melchior, the boy who knows and writes about sex, and Christopher Smart a compelling Moritz riddled with guilt and repression. Both boys, at fourteen or fifteen, have discovered puberty and it is their reactions to it that is the heart of this demanding, but absorbing, piece. The one impregnates a girl, the other kills himself. Still happens all over the world but rarely depicted on stage as raw and disturbing as this one. Gabrielle Dempsey was a beautifully fragile and confused Wendla, Nicole Anderson a sensuously provocative Ilse and, in outstanding virtuosity, Gemma Barrett a feisty schoolgirl Martha and an unflinching buttoned up mother. In the best scene of the evening Miss Barrett’s Frau Bergman failed beautifully and miserably to spell out the facts of life to her daughter. When fourteen year old Wendla fell pregnant she poignantly tells her ma that she couldn’t be. She wasn’t married. She was that sort of girl; it was that sort of play.
Max Lewendel and Adam Purnell, director and set designer, combined to produce a compelling piece superbly lit and costumed. It was also episodic and wordy and you needed all your concentration powers to relate action to characters. Mine wandered a bit at the two gays in the wood, where did that come from I says, and at the teacher’s meeting to expel the sexually rebellious Melchior. Absurdist theatre beautifully conducted by Zachary Holton as a weird Chairman but, almost, completely mystifying. I blame my age, Elvis and Cliff obsessed my distant teenage years. But the heart of this Spring Awakening shone like a beacon. Mainly because this group, collectively, gave us an abundance of powerful and sincere acting of the highest class. Sex reared its complex head and young and old floundered in its confusions. Just like here in Harpenden. So I am told.
It may be a romance, perhaps even the greatest ever written but for the two young lovers caught up in feud of epic proportions the relationship saw more destruction over an affair of the heart than almost anything else William Shakespeare could have conceived. For Romeo and Juliet their lives are so caught up in each other’s being that the consequences, the ramifications are not given much credence by the pair. All that matters is their young love.
William Shakespeare always wrote the driven so perfectly and that is of course true when it comes to those focused, determinedly obsessed in lust or love and it takes immense stature for anyone to encapsulate and portray those driven creatures.
Surprisingly for a production of Romeo and Juliet, it was to the supporting actors’ words that the audience hung onto the most. Surprising but on reflection rightly so as Gemma Barrett, as Juliet’s rambunctious and well meaning Nurse, stole the show alongside the excellent acting of Gabrielle Dempsey as Juliet’s cousin Tybalt and Georgina Periam as Lady Capulet. This particular performance saw three incredibly strong and inspiring performances from three fantastic female actors. Whilst Romeo and Juliet may always be the main focus of Shakespeare’s play but the shift of attention away from the two star crossed lovers to those that are caught up in the fall-out of their relationship was a particular pleasure to see.
Gemma Barrett was especially a delight to watch as she brought something new to the character of the Nurse that often gets overlooked and aside from the Baz Luhmann’s 1996 film with the outrageously brilliant Miriam Margolyes in the part; no one has ever really come close to capturing the spirit and passion that the part requires till now. Gemma Barren is a revelation.
A very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours and a welcome surprise to see that whilst the two young lovers in which the play takes its name from, the audience were taken with those caught in the wake and despair wrought by their actions.
Having never seen a Shakespearian play performed before, I was delighted to be a part of an audience with Icarus Theatre Company performs Romeo & Juliet. What a performance it was, I certainly will be able to remember this play for years to come, as Icarus Theatre Company made this iconic story memorable. Taking an Elizabethan motif and making it appealing to the modern audience of today. It was as if I sitting in the well known Globe Theatre itself, watching a simple yet powerful version of Romeo and Juliet.
The company brought the stage to life, really creating the setting of two households both alike in dignity in fair Verona, where they laid their scene. Having seen the modern version of this well known play I was worried the play would bare significance to the film. However Icarus proved me wrong, I appreciated the conventional way the play was performed. No fancy lighting and sparkles, simply stripping it back to the bare minimum of how a Shakespeare play should be performed and I admired that.
The actors truly delved into their characters, I believed every poetic word that they spoke. Particularly Christopher Smart who was playing the role of Romeo in tonight’s performance at the Queens Hall, he gave a mature performance when he fell madly in love with Juliet. Yet still having that boyish charm between himself and Mercutio (David McLaughlin).McLaughlin understood how to use physical gestures to develop his character. The Nurse (Gemma Barrett) really gave the audience a good giggle; we were all tickled pink as she had this panto like quality which made her character stand out. And as they mentioned in the programme, they made Shakespeare the Icarus way. Because of this performance, I hope to see more Shakespearian plays like this in the future as it is truly worthwhile.
Icarus Theatre Collective, founded in 2003-4, aspires, like its namesake, to fly close to the sun. It has youth on its side. It has massive touring stamina. It has programming flair.
Romeo and Juliet, seen most recently in the Midlands at Stafford, and due next week (16-17 April) at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall – seek it out, you won’t be disappointed - is by no means Icarus’s first Shakespeare play.
Lewendel’s revived or revitalised Othello – his Macbeth and (Greek chorus-manner staging of) Hamlet both won accolades and high-starred ratings - tours this autumn to Northern Ireland and Scotland, and can be seen with Hedda Gabler in the Midlands at the Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury next February and the Stafford Gatehouse next March.
But does this energetic young mid-scale cooperative, which takes risks in exploring ‘the harsh, brutal side of classical and modern drama’, embraces the ‘post modern, surreal and theatre of the absurd’ and sets out to explore the visceral, unspeakable, kinetic and dynamic, have the raw acting talent to go with it?
The answer, judging by its current twin touring productions of R&J and Spring Awakening (reviewed HERE, and by lauded previous offerings, including Journey’s End, Vincent in Brixton, Albert’s Boy, and a landmark piece Rip Her to Shreds, about a gay teenager in 1980s Northern Ireland), is an unequivocal ‘Yes’.
In both the present Angst-ridden shows (their themed similarities mesh well, like the current ‘Free Spirits’ opera tour – Berg, Janáček etc. - by David Pountney’s WNO), Icarus’s actors capture to near-perfection the poignant, risqué, fiery, vitriolic, painful and essentially doomed nature of the plot material (‘Tales of mutilation, rape and incest are not anathema to us’); while the company’s founder and inspiration Max Lewendel, who directs both, displays insight, conceptual coherence and an uncompromising, challenging approach that together produce, almost invariably, electrifying results.
The casts may change, but not the quality. Significant in this Romeo and Juliet were the wonderful raw urgency, touching naiveté and almost Tybalt-like combativeness of Kaiden Dubois’s Romeo, and the sheer poetic beauty of Nicole Anderson’s Juliet.
Anderson brings a particular kind of voice, certainly childish but also initially potentially irritating, in a Fenella Fielding kind of way. But as the lines pile up (‘I must hear from thee every day in the hour, For in a minute there are many days’; ‘banished!' There is no end, no limit, measure, bound, In that word's death; no words can that woe sound.’) in exchanges with the Nurse, her mother, Romeo himself, one senses the beauty and innocence of everything she utters.
Believably a young teen, Anderson epitomises, more than some Juliets, the sheer antithesis of this maiden and the bloody, uncultivated, boorish male-dominated society. Is she allowed books? Maybe not. She learns life through her own intuition-filled exploration. But what she also brings home are the astounding, endless subtleties by which Shakespeare distinguishes between the dictions of his two equal-passioned lovers.
The start of a tragic romance between Verona's teenage lovers among the warring Capulets and Montagues
The fights (Ronin Traynor) are all terrific, finely judged for the space: we get one right at the start, along with the quipping about maidenhead that flippantly but ominously anticipate the central romance. Zachary Holton (a naturally cast Duncan in Icarus’s recent Macbeth) speaks Escalus as well as he does Juliet’s father: taming Tybalt or overbearing his daughter, very much the traditional clan paterfamilias. Georgina Periam, an actress of tangible and endlessly varied talents, delivers a forceful, dignified, rather admirable, then outraged Lady Capulet with wonderful pursed assurance yielding to polished beastliness.
But there was a jinx on this show – at Stafford, at least. In the absence of David McLaughlin (Spring Awakening’s always commanding Melchior) Mercutio was taken on by an understudy – none less than Periam once more, whose triumph in this added role was perhaps no surprise (at a time when Cassius and Julius Caesar are being played by women in Phyllida Lloyd’s east London Shakespeare).
Periam is an actress exuding authority, breadth, depth. She could play Lear’s Fool, and I daresay Titus Andronicus (not just Tamara) too. Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech simply soared to the rafters; his death, below Romeo’s arm, was searing (though to toy I think - with dubbing her ‘Mercutia’ was a disaster: a female Mercutio would require far more subtle preparation and redefinition).
Likewise, McLaughlin being absent, Holton was forced - though less persuasively – to take over as an Irish burr Friar Laurence, urging the cherished lad to Mantua (‘not body’s death, but body’s banishment’), and bearing more than a slight resemblance to the Bishop of London. Reading the role that night, he was really quite skillful in concealing the fact, or preventing it obtruding.
Visually Kayden Dubois’s not-headed youngster is winning. His gestures are inventive; he can raise or lower tension at will. Romeo’s scenes with the Nurse were a triumph. And he delivered countless magical lines. ‘Peace, Mercutio, peace: thou talk’st of nothing’; ‘Every cat and dog And little mouse, every unworthy thing / Live here in heaven and may look on her; But Romeo may not…’ But he also whined somewhat early on: a kindly hand and extra voice coaching would surely render even better Dubois’ promising, involving, heightened delivery.
Or let be….for by later stages, ultimately the beautifully wry parting speech ‘How oft when men are at the point of death….Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide’ any criticism had been utterly allayed.
Adam Purnell’s set, a kind of forlorn palazzo-cum-ruin (the Wedekind set reversed, I gather) atop which Juliet awaits her all too momentary lover, works wonderfully, though is underused. Tybalt can lurk there, or a patient Benvolio (Christopher Smart), and a jutting platform before it helps raise much of the action; but the benign-or-daunting-or-both château needed, one felt, more specific, active use.
Kate Unwin’s costumes were more mixed: Romeo (though in curiously sexless hose), Juliet and Benvolio seemed fine, and Lady Capulet’s reds added stature; but Capulet’s tunic and prodding knees looked curious. The nurse’s, though it mattered little, needed more variety and changes.
Holton’s lighting design (with Dan Saggars) was terrific, especially in its laser-like white light pointing of the final tomb scene, so brilliantly anticipated by Lewendel at the outset: like introducing a reaper Death at the outset.
Christopher Smart’s Benvolio (wonderfully adapting ‘Here comes Romeo..oh..oh..’ as a kind of alack-a-day) is in some ways as good a foil to Romeo as his Moritz is to Melchior in Spring Awakening. Smart seems always intelligent, inventive. In some ways, he does the ‘other’ emotions for all of them, for rarely does he deliver a line without some inventive, and always relevant, vocal or gestural envoi.
No mere silent tree either: ‘Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun Peer'd forth the golden window of the east, A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad; Where, underneath the grove of sycamore That westward rooteth from the city's side, So early walking did I see your son.’ That might easily be Wedekind’s Moritz. ‘Compare her face with some that I shall show, And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.’ What a joyous speaker. What a treat of an actor.
Tragic end for history's most famous of star-cross'd lovers . . .
However I’m not sure that the general moves, so split-second, spot-on in the Wedekind, couldn’t have been sharper defined here, including Benvolio’s. It applied to Gabrielle Dempsey’s female Tybalt: again, her ‘resexing’ an error, for with a little finessing and slightly less sidling around, Dempsey – in the other show a wonderful Wendla - came close to offering a perfectly acceptable ‘male’ Tybalt. Re the moves, Lewendel is too perceptive, thoughtful and incisive a director not to have firmed up some of this side-business, and added a few more salient gestural details. If Icarus’s Romeo limped just occasionally (in a very long tour, it should be added) it was in these ancillary touches, not in the main thrust.
The ultimate ancilla, of course, is Juliet’s Nurse, and she is anything but a spare part. Gemma Barrett caught my eye even in the lesser, early scenes of Frau Bergman, Wendla’s mother in Spring Awakening. Here she effortlessly carried off the honours. This nurse, bustling, conniving, periodically strutting like a bossy peacock, was utterly insuppressible. Her scenes with Juliet were a joy; those with Romeo, an education.
On Tybalt’s death (he like Juliet, nursed by her) she explodes like Margaret of Anjou (and just imagine what a Richard III this youthful, comely team could deliver). Barrett effortlessly plays age; she has the looks, the sidelong glances, the pausing hesitations, the confidential knowledge, the radiant nostalgia, the thrust and flamboyance to capture every whisper of Nurse’s character, like a Mistress Quickly, and bring new freshness to old lines. It’s a handsome, gifted, inspiring team all round, but Barrett, who could be snatched by the RSC tomorrow, is the best here by a few miles.
She and Laurence, like just about everyone in this play, are tragic heroes. Laurence witnesses the futility of his reverend, worldly wise, miscalculated – infatuation, is it? – for a sprouting teenage boy, almost his apprentice. Barrett’s West Country nurse is the victim of as shattering a rejection as Prince Hal’s of Falstaff – although she (nominally) does not hear it. When Juliet seizes command (‘What villain, madam? Villain and he be many miles asunder’), no longer demure, her turncoat helper dispatched (‘Go, counsellor; Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain’) she grows in such stature here that there is no stopping. In order to die, she becomes an adult.
Ironic, then, that the ‘villain’ line has been aped by Juliet herself already (‘But, wherefore, villain, didst thou kill my cousin?’); though exonerating Romeo with ‘That villain cousin would have kill'd my husband.’
Nicole Anderson, expressive, tempting, compelling as the kind of earth goddess figure in Spring Awakening, has by this stage upgraded her melting performance – the little girl - to a superb new persona: ‘Take up those cords: poor ropes, you are beguiled…He made you for a highway to my bed; But I, a maid, die maiden-widowed. Come, cords, come, nurse; I'll to my wedding-bed; And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead! ’
His cord-climbing visit on wedding night may or may not have claimed her maidenhead: Lewendel, leaving us in no doubt about the ambiguous rape in Spring Awakening, presents things as chastely as Zeffirelli’s 1968 film, which at least offered a sash window shot of Leonard Whiting’s youthful(ish) bottom. Dubois would have done nudity with aplomb. No full frontal. No hint of a maidenhead-bespattered nightdress. ‘We relish what others shy away from, show what others daren’t.’ Cutting-edge Icarus’s take on first-time-in marital coition seems to have gone AWOL.
Now with its own rather smart and desirable one- or two-room rehearsal space (available for hire, 0207 998 1562, email firstname.lastname@example.org) opposite its offices near Oxford Circus, right in the heart of London’s West End, Icarus, which aims to mount two mid-scale tours and one fringe production annually, has Ionesco’s The Lesson – which drew prizes and accolades in Romania (‘50s absurdism made over as 90s, in-yer-face apocalypticism!" - Time Out) – back in repertoire; as well as the forthcoming tour of Othello and what promises to be a searing Hedda Gabler (early 2014 at England venues).
Nothing could have proved the value of Icarus’s usually no-holds-barred approach than the audience at the Gatehouse. It consisted almost entirely of youngsters who would have been precise contemporaries of Romeo and his fair Juliet, Tybalt and Benvolio. Pouring into the theatre, or milling (but not buying) in the bar, they looked like Dubois and Smart and Anderson. And a few (apt) wolf-whistles apart, they were agog at the show. The timing of two of Leicester’s showings is designed to cater for a like young audience.
So - it’s surely a pity that Icarus - at present - visits so few West Midland venues. How about Wolverhampton, Coventry, Warwick, Worcester, Hereford? The audiences are there, in droves; and we have young, too. It’s an omission that needs reversing. Venue promoters, please note.
Flying high with a Shakespeare classic
ANYBODY who has read my theatre reviews over the past few decades – both of you perhaps – will know that I am an unflinching bardolatrist. There is simply no dramatist who comes anywhere near the glory of Shakespeare.
My devotion, however, is not uncritical. I have never taken to Romeo and Juliet. I know that it is the most filmed of all the plays, that it has been the inspiration for many ballets and two dozen operas and is the major feature of Verona’s tourist trade.
But I just don’t understand why people believe that this tale is the very epitome of romance.
Typically, Max Lewendel, the artistic director of Icarus Theatre, bringing the latest production to Hexham, is adamant. It is “decidedly the world’s greatest love story.”
Really? May I remind him and others that the two young protagonists go from lust to dust in just three days; a one-night stand between a 13 year old girl and a 17 year old boy leads inexorably to five deaths, including their own. Hardly the stuff of Valentine’s Day!
Shakespeare’s original title was The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Early publicity described it as “an excellent conceited tragedy”.
“Never was a story of more woe” is the epitaph of the play and, because audiences respond to extreme pathos, the drama is always a favourite on the stage, not least the greatest version of all – West Side Story!
There are elements in the play that are immediately memorable. The two balcony scenes were played with great sensitivity in this pared-down version by Icarus.
Nicole Anderson was a frail and totally believable Juliet and Christopher Smart understudying the part of Romeo spoke the famous lines as if they were newly written.
The editing down of characters made the role of the nurse more prominent than usual and Gemma Barrett ensured, with volume and gesture, that no bawdiness was underplayed.
I was especially impressed by David McLaughlin as Mercutio, whose sardonic and well-modulated speaking of the verse was a joy to hear. He was good too as a very different Friar Laurence in the second half of the play.
What was missing from this production was the quarrelling violence on the streets of Verona between the two houses of Capulet and Montague that precipitates the tragedy.
With a total cast of seven actors, this was inevitable but it did diminish the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio. But the company went from strength to strength in the second half.
Some judicious editing of the complicated plot made the resolution of Romeo and the final death scenes starker and more tragic.
We were spared the usual lengthy reiterations of the plot in the original text.
Icarus are a company with good intentions. They fly high but their wings have yet to melt.
Admirably, they run four education workshops for students in conjunction with this tour.
And they were clearly in tune with the hundred or so school pupils in the audience who remained rapt and attentive throughout.
The latter will have been impressed, if not with the odd ragbag of costumes, with the solid sets and the highly professional lighting and sound effects.
And they will have realised that Shakespeare may be dense if you have to study the pages in a classroom, but when you hear the words spoken – or better still speak them yourself – all becomes marvellously clear.
Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond
SHAKESPEARE’S tale of warring families and ill-fated lovers is such a well-known piece that it can be a tall order to imbue it with fresh energy. Not so for Icarus Theatre Collective, whose youthful vitality and colourful interpretation brought the Bard’s most famous tragedy to life.
Accompanied by celestial music, swirling pastel lights and an ancient sundial as the centrepiece of the stage, the eight players in traditional Elizabethan costume took on multiple roles to convey the bitterness between the Montagues and Capulets and the love which springs up between the impetuous Romeo and lovesick Juliet.
The lovers’ first meeting at the ball perfectly captured the transcendental nature of the play’s pivotal moment. With light flooding on to the couple, the other players melted into the shadows in slow motion, still there but suddenly irrelevant. By contrast, the swordfighting scenes were fast and furious, and Romeo’s vengeful murder of Tibalt was gruesomely executed amid a fountain of blood.
The subtlety with which Romeo and Juliet’s secret wedding night tryst was portrayed added style and depth to the performance, yet lost nothing of the burning adolescent desire driving them.
While there were good performances from the whole cast, with Zachary Holton’s booming presence adding gravitas, the star performer of this piece was Gemma Barrett.
Bawdy, hysterical, neurotic and histrionic, Barrett’s nurse was both tragic and comical, with an immense repertoire of facial expressions, heaving sobs and coarse body language.
As the players gathered round the entwined bodies of the dead lovers for the final scene, the mist swirled and the lights twinkled to create a dramatic finality and powerful sense of fate as equally capable of creating euphoria and devastation. These young performers gave their all and created a fresh and invigorating version of this time-honoured romantic tragedy.
The bard’s famous tragedy was brought to life in an energetic performance by a cast of young actors from the Icarus Theatre Collective.
What unfolded was the timeless tale of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, the children of rival feuding families who meet in secret and fall in love.
Their swift marriage is thrown into turmoil after Romeo murders Juliet’s cousin Tibalt in revenge for his killing of Romeo’s best friend Mercutio.
With Romeo banished for his crime, Juliet is forced by her parents to consent to marry another man, leading her to take drastic action.
Fate continues to conspire against the couple resulting in their untimely deaths which finally reconciles their warring relatives.
Last night’s production was a traditional retelling of the 16th century play delivered in period costume.
Directed by Max Lewendel, it was a very accessible adaption of Shakespeare’s play which was appreciated by the youthful audience.
The two leads, Kaiden Dubois and Nicole Anderson, brought a youthful exuberance to the roles of the doomed lovers.
Anderson, in particular, gave a moving and believable performance as Juliet.
They were backed up by an excellent supporting cast, in particular Gemma Barrett as Juliet’s bawdy nurse, whose comic turn added a modern touch to the Elizabethan play. David McLaughlin’s intelligent performance as Romeo’s best friend Mercutio also stood out.
The cast made good use of the simple set design and the sword fight scenes were well acted and choreographed.
It's the most famous love story in the world, so familiar that it's easy to forget what a strange tale it is.
Two teenagers meet for the first time, fleetingly, at a party and fall head over heels in love. The next thing we know, they're getting married in secret. And bloodshed, death and wholesale misery ensues.
Now we all know what teenagers are like: fickle creatures governed by wild emotions that are apt to fade just as quickly as they flare.
Which, if you think about it, makes this play less about a great romance cruelly destroyed and more a cautionary tale about the culpability of the adults whose actions and attitudes, dictated by their own agendas, facilitate a tragic sequence of events.
Friar Laurence and the Nurse indulge the youngsters' whims, rather than, more sensibly, just telling to just calm the heck down. And at the other extreme, Lord Capulet, abetted by his wife, tries to force his daughter, barely more than a child, into a marriage that's politically expedient to him, irrespective of Juliet's own feelings.
The casting in this Icarus Theatre Collective production emphasises just how young the principal characters are. Kaiden Dubois and Nicole Anderson both seem physically much smaller and slighter than anyone else on the stage.
Dubois is a perfect moody teenager, a kind of emo Romeo, with his spiky mop of hair and his sullen demeanour. And Anderson's Juliet is an unnervingly childlike presence, albeit one armed with a voice that's as pure and clear as a bell, effortlessly filling the auditorium.
In terms of costume and set, this is a very traditional-looking production. But there's one significant departure from the norm, with the casting of Gabrielle Dempsey as Tybalt.
This turns out to be a successful choice. Instead of the usual testosterone-driven hothead, we get a spirited, steely young woman, driven by principle and family loyalty to challenge Romeo.
The fight scenes, directed by Ronin Traynor, are handled well by all involved. The fateful clash between Romeo and Tybalt is particularly impressive and bloody, drawing gasps of shock, followed by nervous laughter, from the audience.
The size of the cast, just eight people, requires most of the actors to play more than one role.
David McLaughlin is particularly impressive in this respect. A camp, charismatic, troubled Mercutio, he becomes unrecognisable as the earnest, anxious Friar Lawrence.
Gemma Barrett's Nurse proves a hit with the audience. She stomps around the stage, a bawdy, big-hearted, cackling bundle of energy. Which makes her grief, as the tragedy unfolds around her, all the more raw and real.
Christopher Smart is well cast as the sympathetic, decent Benvolio, a good foil to his out-of-control companions. Zachary Holton brings a suitably commanding physical presence to his roles as Lord Capulet and Prince Escalus.
And Georgina Periam has a nicely cool, contained but brittle quality as Lady Capulet. You sense she would be excellent casting as Lady Macbeth, a role she has played in the past.
Overall, this is a production that does its job, telling the story with clarity to audiences which will inevitably, as on this night, include large parties of school pupils.
A MODEST, predominantly female cast, provided an entertaining performance of the classic Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet.
I was keen to see how the cast had adapted this well-known tale of romance, ancient feuds and misadventure and I was not disappointed by the two hours on their stage.
Using simplistic sets depicting a Verona scene, the highly-acclaimed Icarus Theatre Collective's engaging performance stayed faithful to the original stage play in both content and style.
There were some interesting adaptations, such as the part of Tybalt being changed to a female role.
The show got off to a gripping start with a strong, comedic opening and the humour was continued throughout with energetic performances from the characters of Mercutio and Nurse.
There was a sparkling chemistry between the star-crossed lovers, which added romance to this classic tale of love and tragedy.
I particularly enjoyed the cleverly choreographed sword fights and classic masked ball scene in which the couple first meet.
The cast made good use of the whole stage, and created atmosphere with spotlights that focused the audience's attention upon the intimate scenes.
The cast gave effortlessly convincing performances throughout.
With a final scene that set the auditorium in a quiet hush, I left the Bacon Theatre reflecting on a truly great performance.
Romeo and Juliet is a fantastic show for all ages and one I highly recommend you go and see.
Icarus's productions soar
TEENAGE angst and doomed romance were the central themes of two nights of back-to-back theatre as the Icarus Theatre Collective arrived in Swansea with its latest productions.
But while the second was an all too familiar tale of Shakespearian tragedy, the opening night was a much darker affair.
As alluded to by the 16+ age rating, Spring Awakening, Frank Wedekind's seminal play of sexual oppression in Fin de Siècle Germany, was never intended to be an easy ride. Nor could any play whose subject matter included rape, violence, suicide and abortion hope to be.
From the offset, an innocent children's game of tag descends into a vicious circle of sexual discovery, with disastrous consequences.
The predominantly youthful cast grew, learned, and in some cases died together, in a powerful, gripping show that didn't shy away from its subject matter. In fact, far from being subtle, it practically beat the audience across the head with its message, by graphically depicting beatings and attacks live on-stage.
The play was based around a suitably bleak set, the centrepiece of which was a jagged iron crucifix that cast a foreboding shadow over proceedings.
And even more foreboding were the fleeting appearance of a mysterious masked man, a devil-like character who elicited an audible gasp from the audience.
Icarus's second production of the weekend was a more traditional affair, a faithful interpretation of timeless classic Romeo And Juliet.
The much-performed tale was passionately delivered, and despite its two hour plus running time, never seemed laboured. From the iconic "where for art thou" balcony scene to a suitably ferocious and bloody fight scene, this was Shakespeare-by-numbers that, while thoroughly entertaining, did little in the way of re-imagining or personalising.
That is a shame, because the one area in which Icarus did not conform was in its decision to change the gender of main antagonist Tybalt.
While cross-dressing is a familiar occurrence in Shakespearean plays, casting Gabrielle Dempsey in the role of a notorious hot-blooded young man added a new angle to the performance.
And the lighter moments of the play were mainly thanks to Gemma Barrett who put in a fantastically over-the-top comic performance as Juliet's faithful Nurse.
Icarus served up two thoroughly compelling productions that, while similar in their outcomes, couldn't have been more different in their delivery.
The Icarus Theatre Collective, known for tackling controversial subjects such as rape, mutilation and incest, returned to the most traditional of theatre scripts for their tour of Romeo and Juliet stopping at Horsham for two nights only this week.
Shakespeare’s tragedy telling the tale of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet caught between the warring Capulet and Montague families was performed in the Capitol.
Kaiden Dubois (Romeo) and Nicole Anderson (Juliet) led the small cast in their adaptation set in Elizabethan times and co-produced with the Kings Theatres, Southsea.
The simple props, costumes and scenery put the acting in the spotlight.
Dubois’s Shakespeare script tripped off the tongue as if it were his native language and Anderson’s best shone through in the second half when Juliet is faced with the new of her cousin Tybalt being slain by her new husband, who was now banished from fair Verona.
Split between her love lost and
The most colourful characters were Juliet’s Nurse and (Gemma Barrett) and Mercutio (David McLaughlin).
Barrett performed the Nurse as a flamboyant eccentric from the West Country with the broad accent to go with it. As the winner of Chaplins’ Best Actor Award last year, she had won over sceptics of her performance by the end of the show.
McLaughlin, who also took the role of Friar Lawrence, played Romeo’s righthand man Mercutio as the fun loving, but loyal best friend.
The biggest surprise was the decision to cast Tybalt as a female character adding a new dynamic to the script. It gave the fighting scene between Tybalt, Mercutio and Romeo and interesting twist with a gender war you would not have expected to see in an adaptation set in the Shakespeare’s era when men often took the role of women.
Last night saw the opening night of a national tour of Romeo & Juliet by the Icarus Theatre Collective, who explores the harsh, brutal side of contemporary and classical theatre, at the Kings Theatre in Southsea.
Played out by a cast of only eight (which I did not realise until the play had finished and the actors came on stage to take their bows) this production of Romeo & Juliet was by far one of the greatest I have ever seen!
The group stuck to traditional dress and dialogue but certain twists throughout made for real thought-provoking entertainment.
One of the biggest twists was the use of gender reverse in some of the roles. This angle has been attempted by other productions before and, in my opinion, let the rest of the play down. However, in the Icarus' performance last night, it not only worked but exceeded beyond my own expectation of just how powerful and fitting such changes could have been to this timeless piece.
The main example of this was the casting of a female in the role of Capulet, Prince of Cats (Gabrielle Dempsey). Fans of the play will know how Capulet is by far one of the most spiteful and vindictive characters Shakespeare ever penned, and with a woman playing the part - exceptionally well I may add - it brought a whole new level to the manipulation of the character, making her, well, very cat like!
Also, whilst Capulet was still played as a man, and Montague spoken of as one, it was their wives who took the charge of all situations, played out by their husbands in most other productions, and again this worked sensationally well, showing these strong dominant characters the way they would be seen in today's society.
In most productions I have seen, the nurse has always been portrayed as a humorous, almost comedic, character, and whilst the Icarus maintained her level of comedy throughout, the actress playing the nurse, Gemma Barrett, brought so many more levels of her character to the plot. Her performance, be it comical or dramatic, shone through in every scene she embarked on.
Romeo (Kaiden Dubois) and Juliet (Katrina Gibson) were played very sincerely and traditionally by their actors, and I think this was very important and instrumental in the success of the play, as if too much is tweaked then it can become overbearing. They, however, kept the balance between Elizabethan society and today's society watching it, seamless and consistently brilliant throughout. Benvolio (Christopher Smart), again, was kept very original, and the actor playing him was exceptional.
Mercutio (David McLaughlin), played superbly to the character, was seen to bring a new level between the Montague and Capulet rivalry, using Shakespeare's own dialogue to suggest a sexist despise against Tybalt, as well as the family rivalry. This was incredibly clever, and on par with the same metaphoric platform used by Baz Luhrmann in the 1996 blockbuster movie version of the play, in which he turns Mercutio's love speech to be about drugs.
All in all, Shakespeare lovers, and those not familiar with his work, will find this production an amazing piece of art, bringing one of the greatest examples of British literature to life on stage.
I thoroughly recommend you make this the one play you must see!
Probably the most quoted love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet would be surrounded by yellow crime scene tape in our time, but here Icarus Theatre Collective have bathed the story in gentle light.
The company make perfect sense of Shakespeare’s tricky language, whisking us back to Elizabethan times to experience all the rollick of sexual attraction with fights to the death, leaving even the audience breathless.
All the actors under Max Lewendel’s careful direction have a vibrant energy, particularly David McLaughlin’s witty performance of the anti-hero Mercutio.
It’s a shame he has to die so early in the plot, but his death marks the turning point when tragedy begins to overwhelm the comic aspects of the story.
Already married, Romeo moves from adolescence to manhood in a heartbeat as he kills Tybalt (a gorgeous Gabrielle Dempsey) to revenge his friend.
Kaiden Dubois lends melancholy to Romeo and when he learns of Juliet’s death, his speech changes to maturity as he resolves to die to be with his wife.
A lovely performance of a very youthful Juliet from Katrina Gibson, and her nurse Gemma Barrett spills over with energetic exuberance.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t give a huge mention to Zachary Holton, for his masterful performance of Lord Capulet and his beautiful lighting.
I loved those morning rays of sunshine, and he’s also listed as stage manager. Obviously a man of many talents.
When I went to Lynn’s Arts Centre to see the Icarus Theatre Collective present Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, I had high expectations for the performance.
I was not disappointed as the cast of eight took to the stage with a fresh take on the Bard’s classic.
Their youth brought energy and urgency to the play in a way that I had not seen before. Interestingly, the company had cast a woman in the role of Tybalt, which brought a new ferocity to the sword-fighting scenes.
The cast had great chemistry, which was highlighted in the boisterous interplay between the characters, in particular with the nurse and Juliet.
While scenes featuring Benvolio, Mercutio and Romeo accentuated the cheekier references in the script which certainly had the audience laughing.
My favourite scene in the play is always Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech. Often used to highlight the dark side to his character, this performance saw Mercutio deliver the speech in a playful and jokey manner which brought a new naivety to the character.
Icarus is an extremely interesting 'collective' of young players. Their touring production of Romeo and Juliet, caught last night in King's Theatre, Portsmouth, was energetic yet thoughtful, boisterous yet meticulously rehearsed, perfect really for the coach-load of school kids who giggled and gasped throughout the performance, and stamped and cheered at its climax.
King's theatre is more than one hundred years old. It's an awesome venue. (Check out some of my hasty iphone snaps below.) In addition to its Vaudevillian architecture, it has one of those old-fashioned stages that seems to hang in a void of utter darkness. This up-stage blackness emphasised the young lovers' fragility. Their tragedy unfolded on a flimsy island of light before an infinite and brutally indifferent cosmos - which I think was Shakespeare's point.
They say you're getting old when police officers start looking young? Well the actors playing Romeo and Juliet made my back ache. Their youthful energy against a dark background added a poignancy to this play that I think I'd missed in my younger days. Perhaps we can only appreciate this tragedy when we're too old to live it.
The verse was very good. I heard every word, which is always the most important thing for me. Director Max Lewendel had evidently taken his direction from the text, despite that text being shifted and manipulated for the small cast of eight.
Juliet in particular was excellent. Finding an actor who combines the fragility and vitality of youth with the gravity of Juliet's intellectual greatness is absurdly difficult. I've rarely seen a good Juliet. Katrina Gibson was very good. However, I found Gabrielle Dempsey's casting as Tybalt most fascinating. What we didn't get was the sense of the Capulets as 'new money', a rising family, a kind of mafioso fighting to the top of the tooth-and-claw, mercantile Darwinian environment of Shakespeare's early modern era. What we did get was the sense of Tybalt's vulnerability. Her shock at her murder of Mercutio was poignant. Dempsey conveyed her character's own vulnerability to the systemic violence of an honour culture with great skill.
There was plenty more to like about this production. Catch it before it's gone!
Romeo and Juliet has been around for centuries. Playwrights and troupes worldwide have nipped and tucked Shakespeare’s infamous classic into endless interpretations, venturing between many genres and theatrical forms, from ice ballets to large-scale professionally-choreographed dance shows. The tragically romantic tale became a successful Leonardo DiCaprio-starring feature film a few years ago, and it’s even spawned a slightly cliché metaphor that became hugely amplified through Taylor Swift’s song ‘Love Story’. You’d think we’d be a bit tired of the whole affair by now, eh? What a relief it was, then, to see the Icarus Theatre Collective putting on such a wonderful adaptation at The Kings Theatre on Wednesday evening.
What really stood out was how Icarus exploited the two halves of the play (pre-interlude and post-interlude) to set two entirely different tones. The pre-interlude slice of the theatrical cake tasted a bit off, at first; the titular star-crossed lovers were overshadowed by comedic presences, such as the hilariously straight-talking Nurse. But post-interlude, Romeo and Juliet steal the spotlight, the comedy drains away, and tragedy floods in while the tears flood out. Juliet’s soliloquies were spoken boldly and emotively, and the chemistry between the pair had me pining for them as their rival families tore them apart and eventually drove them to take their own lives.
Not all of the play was explored –– Icarus chose to trim the fat, per se, and only leave in the juiciest bits that were central to the plot. The result? A rollercoaster rendering of the play that dragged the audience on a fast-paced soul-stirring ride for two heart-rending hours. Hope for peace between the Capulets and the Montagues was established at the dance where Romeo and Juliet first meet, but before you could say “this is going to go so wrong”, Tybalt is lying dead on the stage and the fading embers of hatred between the opposing families is sparked into a fiery inferno once again. None of the frilly bits get in the way –– we were served the raw romance, action, and tragedy in speedy succession.
Icarus did, of course, leave in the iconic balcony scene. You know, “wherefore art thou” and all that jazz. Kaiden Dubois, the fellow who played Romeo, didn’t just walk on stage and start wooing Juliet, however. He slowly strolled down towards the stage between the seating stalls, holding a dimly-lit lantern out in front of him which only just about illuminated his face, reeling off an amorous monologue. It was enchantingly unexpected. I saw a light in the corner of my eye and angrily snapped my head around thinking someone was using their phone, but then I realised what was happening and I was like, “oh, that’s awesome”.
There were a few tiny, insignificant slip-ups. Tybalt got her (well, his, but you’ll see what I mean in a minute) sword caught on her dress and Benvolio kept dropping his hat, but such trivial errors weren’t noticeable and by no means distracted from the effectiveness of the play. I became so engrossed in it all that it came as a shock to me at the end when I realised the cast was comprised of a mere eight actors and actresses! There was also an instance of gender role reversal –– Tybalt was played by an actress, and rather than being a distraction like so many gender role reversals are in theatre, it worked a treat. The costumes were traditionally striking and, aside from a few lighting cues being fractionally out of time with characters’ movements around the stage, the technical side of things went flawlessly.
Props to Icarus Theatre Collective for putting on such a fantastic show. If you missed them at the Kings, no worries! You can travel to a whole bunch of places across Britain to see this iconic piece of English literature come to life on stage until as late as May 2013. For a full list of all the tour dates and venues, check out Icarus’ website here: http://www.icarustheatre.org/.
Icarus Theatre Collective and Kings Theatre, Southsea
Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, North Yorkshire
From 25 October 2012 to 27 October 2012
It’s so nice to see a company concentrating on Shakespeare’s text rather than doing contemporary interpretations in modern dress. Max Lewendel’s careful direction makes perfect sense of the tricky text, finding as much humour as possible in the early comic scenes. He keeps his actors on the move, each with purpose and justified intention.
All the actors in this production have a vibrant energy. Most are fresh from drama school with the polish of talent untarnished and shining like new silver. I hadn’t realised how much sex Shakespeare had hidden in this love story, but Lewendel has found every reference, plus a few extra inventions of his own; elaborating each citation with the blade of a sword or the grasp of a groin.
The fight scenes between Mercutio and Tybalt are extraordinary, especially so when you take into account the shoe-box sized stage and the length of an Elizabethan longsword. I was indeed very close to the cut and thrust sitting in the Coleman Box, which is almost on the stage. The company had already thought about this fact as they’d kindly left a message for me at the box-office. I wasn’t to worry about the fight scenes, they advised, although they looked scary; they were confident that I wouldn’t need to have an ambulance on stand by.
I particularly liked David McLaughlin’s quick-witted, skittish performance of the anti-romantic, Mercutio. It’s such a shame has to die so early in the plot, his death marking the turning point when tragedy begins to overwhelm the comic aspects of the story.
Kaiden Dubois lends melancholy to Romeo’s poetic, adolescent character, the lust for love in his eyes is far greater than his desire to be part of the family feud. Katrina Gibson gives a delicate childlike performance as Juliet, who is, after all, supposed to be just 13 years old when she falls in love with Romeo.
I did like the traditional touch when Friar Laurence marries the two star-struck lovers as he uses a cord to bind them together, literally and emotionally tying the knot.
Gemma Barrett’s Nurse is overflowing with exuberance, each entrance full of brilliant breathless angst, and her passion for the lewd and sexual is played with great comic timing.
There is so much to like about this production, so many little things like the crosses on Romeo’s shoes, Lady Capulet’s fabulously complex plaited hair and Friar Laurence’s pince-nez reading glasses but what is very special is the lighting. And since Romeo doesn’t appear to like the light, preferring to do most of his love sworn deeds in the dark, lighting designer Zachary Holton has used the dimmer to great effect. He’s found a ticklish quality of light to dress the stage with the colour of autumn; his morning rays of daybreak sunshine mingle with effective smoke to make for a good deal of magic to surround the final death scene. As if that’s not enough Holton also plays Lord Capulet with great presence and is the company stage manager too.
As comedy turns to tragedy, there’s blood, plenty of real red stuff, punctuating the death of Mercutio and his rival Tybalt (a rather gorgeous smokey eyed Gabrielle Dempsey). The vial of poison turned out to be a bottle of turquoise liquid, a rose perhaps in disguise that Juliet fondled for quite some time before she succumbed to drink.
The death-marked pair cannot survive the play, a double suicide being the most dramatic death for ones so young and so newly in love. Excellent.
Norwich Playhouse (and its wonderful bar) is one of my favourite spots in the city, and quite possibly my favourite auditorium in the country. It’s set out so that no seats have an obstructed view, and at an intimate 400 capacity, it always punches well above its weight in terms of programme.
This was the final of three Romeo and Juliet performances happening over two days at the Playhouse, and The Icarus Theatre should certainly be proud of an accomplished and very entertaining interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic. Although Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, this production has made excellent use of the play’s funner aspects, with classic 16th century euphemisms and other naughtiness in tow.
It’s perhaps a strange element for a literary-oriented lass like myself to fixate on, but the set design and lighting were a welcome focal point of the stage. With very few physical props and a minimalistic use of lighting, the outcome was tangible and quite beautiful. I really loved everything about the layout and logistics of this performance.
While the actors were generally well cast for their roles, the changeovers slick and the performance engaging, unfortunately I found myself left rather cold by Romeo and Juliet themselves. A lack of chemistry between the actors combined with obvious fake-kissing (hands in front of the face stuff) made for the kind of moments where you realise you’re watching people on a stage. Personally, I really like falling into a play and forgetting the outside world exists for a few hours…
That aside, this was an excellent take on a globally-renowned tale of true love and true loss, and a very enjoyable night out.
"Youthful vitality and colourful interpretation brought the Bard’s most famous tragedy to life".
"The lovers’ first meeting at the ball perfectly captured the transcendental nature of the play’s pivotal moment".
"The swordfighting scenes were fast and furious, and Romeo’s vengeful murder of Tibalt was gruesomely executed amid a fountain of blood".
"The subtlety with which Romeo and Juliet’s secret wedding night tryst was portrayed added style and depth to the performance, yet lost nothing of the burning adolescent desire driving them".
"The star performer of this piece was Gemma Barrett".
"Bawdy, hysterical, neurotic and histrionic".
"Equally capable of creating euphoria and devastation".
"A fresh and invigorating version of this time-honoured romantic tragedy".
"The casting in this Icarus Theatre Collective production emphasises just how young the principal characters are".
"Dubois is a perfect moody teenager".
"Anderson’s Juliet is an unnervingly childlike presence, albeit one armed with a voice that’s as pure and clear as a bell, effortlessly filling the auditorium".
"Gabrielle Dempsey as Tybalt... we get a spirited, steely young woman, driven by principle and family loyalty".
"The fateful clash between Romeo and Tybalt is particularly impressive and bloody, drawing gasps of shock".
"David McLaughlin is particularly impressive".
"Gemma Barrett’s Nurse proves a hit with the audience. She stomps around the stage, a bawdy, big-hearted, cackling bundle of energy. Which makes her grief, as the tragedy unfolds around her, all the more raw and real".
"Christopher Smart is well cast".
"Georgina Periam has a nicely cool, contained but brittle quality as Lady Capulet".
"The show got off to a gripping start".
"There was a sparkling chemistry between the star-crossed lovers".
"I particularly enjoyed the cleverly choreographed sword fights and classic masked ball scene in which the couple first meet".
"The cast made good use of the whole stage, and created atmosphere with spotlights that focused the audience's attention upon the intimate scenes".
"Effortlessly convincing performances throughout".
"With a final scene that set the auditorium in a quiet hush, I left the Bacon Theatre reflecting on a truly great performance".
"A fantastic show for all ages and one I highly recommend you go and see".
"Icarus's productions soar".
"Casting Gabrielle Dempsey in the role of a notorious hot-blooded young man added a new angle to the performance".
"Icarus served up two thoroughly compelling productions that, while similar in their outcomes, couldn't have been more different in their delivery".
"Dubois’s Shakespeare script tripped off the tongue as if it were his native language".
"Anderson’s best shone through".
"The most colourful characters were Juliet’s Nurse and (Gemma Barrett) and Mercutio (David McLaughlin)".
"McLaughlin, who also took the role of Friar Lawrence, played Romeo’s right hand man Mercutio as the fun loving, but loyal best friend".
"This production of Romeo & Juliet was by far one of the greatest I have ever seen!"
"Certain twists throughout made for real thought-provoking entertainment".
"This worked sensationally well".
"[Gemma Barrett's] performance, be it comical or dramatic, shone through in every scene she embarked on".
"Consistently brilliant throughout".
"Mercutio (David McLaughlin), played superbly to the character".
"Shakespeare lovers, and those not familiar with his work, will find this production an amazing piece of art, bringing one of the greatest examples of British literature to life on stage".
"I thoroughly recommend you make this the one play you must see!"
"Icarus Theatre Collective have bathed the story in gentle light".
"The company make perfect sense of Shakespeare’s tricky language".
"Leaving the audience breathless".
"All the actors under Max Lewendel’s careful direction have a vibrant energy, particularly David McLaughlin’s witty performance of the anti-hero Mercutio".
"A lovely performance of a very youthful Juliet from Katrina Gibson, and her nurse Gemma Barrett spills over with energetic exuberance".
"A huge mention to Zachary Holton, for his masterful performance of Lord Capulet and his beautiful lighting".
"A fresh take on the Bard’s classic".
"Their youth brought energy and urgency to the play in a way that I had not seen before".
"The cast had great chemistry".
"My favourite scene in the play is always Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech".
"Energetic yet thoughtful, boisterous yet meticulously rehearsed".
"Perfect really for the coach-load of school kids who giggled and gasped throughout the performance, and stamped and cheered at its climax".
"Their tragedy unfolded on a flimsy island of light before an infinite and brutally indifferent cosmos".
"They say you're getting old when police officers start looking young? Well the actors playing Romeo and Juliet made my back ache. Their youthful energy against a dark background added a poignancy to this play that I think I'd missed in my younger days. Perhaps we can only appreciate this tragedy when we're too old to live it".
"The verse was very good. I heard every word, which is always the most important thing for me".
"Director Max Lewendel had evidently taken his direction from the text".
"Juliet in particular was excellent. Finding an actor who combines the fragility and vitality of youth with the gravity of Juliet's intellectual greatness is absurdly difficult".
"I found Gabrielle Dempsey's casting as Tybalt most fascinating".
"Catch it before it's gone!"
"What a relief it was to see the Icarus Theatre Collective putting on such a wonderful adaptation".
"What really stood out was how Icarus exploited the two halves of the play (pre-interlude and post-interlude) to set two entirely different tones".
"Romeo and Juliet steal the spotlight".
"Tragedy floods in while the tears flood out".
"Juliet’s soliloquies were spoken boldly and emotively, and the chemistry between the pair had me pining for them".
"Icarus chose to trim the fat, per se, and only leave in the juiciest bits".
"A rollercoaster rendering of the play that dragged the audience on a fast-paced soul-stirring ride".
"We were served the raw romance, action, and tragedy in speedy succession".
"I became so engrossed in it all that it came as a shock to me at the end when I realised the cast was comprised of a mere eight actors!"
"The technical side of things went flawlessly".
"Props to Icarus Theatre Collective for putting on such a fantastic show".
"Max Lewendel’s careful direction makes perfect sense of the tricky text".
"All the actors in this production have a vibrant energy".
"The polish of talent untarnished and shining like new silver".
"I hadn’t realised how much sex Shakespeare had hidden in this love story, but Lewendel has found every reference, plus a few extra inventions of his own".
"The fight scenes between Mercutio and Tybalt are extraordinary".
"I particularly liked David McLaughlin’s quick-witted, skittish performance of the anti-romantic, Mercutio".
"Katrina Gibson gives a delicate childlike performance as Juliet".
"I did like the traditional touch when Friar Laurence marries the two star-struck lovers as he uses a cord to bind them together, literally and emotionally tying the knot".
"Gemma Barrett’s Nurse is overflowing with exuberance, each entrance full of brilliant breathless angst, and her passion for the lewd and sexual is played with great comic timing".
"There is so much to like about this production".
"Holton also plays Lord Capulet with great presence".
"Tybalt, a rather gorgeous smokey-eyed Gabrielle Dempsey".
"The Icarus Theatre should certainly be proud of an accomplished and very entertaining interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic".
"The set design and lighting were a welcome focal point of the stage".
"I really loved everything about the layout and logistics of this performance".
"An excellent take on a globally-renowned tale of true love and true loss, and a very enjoyable night out".
£16,800 full week
£8,900 split week
£5,900 two performance
all versus 75/25
Recommended Age: 10+
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes including 20minute interval