A presentation of Romeo and Juliet was the latest in a series of “pocket productions” performed by the Bowler Crab theatre company at the Mermaid Inn on Sunday March 5.
Whatever the audience was expecting, only four scenes from the play were acted out. The entertainment consisted in peeling back the layers of possible meanings and interpretations, looking at the play in its historical and modern context as literature, and as theatre.
The paucity of stage directions in Shakespeare’s original Quartos and the First Folio, published in 1623, gives modern producers a wide canvas for interpreting the play. Is Romeo and Juliet really a tragedy, or is it perhaps a comedy, or a medley of the two, so beloved by Shakespeare?
By way of illustration, each scene was enacted several times; firstly, in the high-flown courtly poetry of the written word, then comedy as of two young people in jousting repartee, with the heroine matching fully the humorous dallying of her lover. Finally, the tragic undertones present throughout the play were stressed to give yet a different, darker interpretation.
Stephen John as Romeo and Christabel Clark as Juliet demonstrated well their grasp of different characterisations, and the audience were invited to comment at each stage, in a relaxed, conversational atmosphere. In the end though, it was for me and perhaps for many, the flights of mellifluous poetry that make Shakespeare’s plays so endearing, a pleasure greatly amplified by sensitive stage production, but equally available and accessible through the written page.
The company returns to the Mermaid Inn with a full-scale production of the Merchant of Venice on June 13 and 14 – see their website for further information.
Photo: Kenneth Bird