Review: Romeo & Juliet at the Gate Theatre - Tragic love story lacks conviction
Theatre: Romeo & Juliet, Gate Theatre
There is a tonal confusion at the heart of Wayne Jordan's resolutely apolitical production of Shakespeare's play of tragic love. The first half is generally a great lark. Everybody is cavorting round the stage with music emanating from a boombox, and all the production effort appears to have gone into Catherine Fay's brilliantly funky costumes for the mask ball.
The gang of young men, who need to be a bit vicious, are like a bunch of teddy bears; one is even dressed as a panda. Tadhg Murphy's Mercutio is fun and flirty with his foxy tail, and there is little sense of threat. They look like they'd sooner erupt into a dance routine rather than a street fight.
Consequently, the violence and death that brings the first half to a close seem to be happening in another play. The only actor to emit any sense of threat in the first half is Ian Toner as Tybalt. But his simmering is overwhelmed by the larky energy of the rest, as he is overwhelmed by the amorous attentions of Natalie Radmall-Quirke's nicely vampish Lady Capulet.
Into this tonal confusion are flung Fra Fee and Lauren Coe as Romeo and Juliet to do their best.
They are beautiful young actors, and their line readings are superb, but there is no concept; they are simply playing for sincerity. Instead of a tragic scaffold underpinning them, we get a banjo-powered version of Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet. The only moment when a functioning tragic energy is found is in Simon O'Gorman's genuinely scary patriarchal outburst as Capulet late in the show.
But soon after he appears in an apron, just to get everything back on a larky track. A suave Frank Sinatra singing "You make me feel so young" after the final fatalities is probably intended as ironic, but serves to underpin the director's fatal lack of confidence in the tragedy.