Romeo & Juliet review: This Romeo may be monochrome and mannered… but grab the chance to see Spider-Man do The Bard at all costs, writes PATRICK MARMION

Romeo & Juliet

First evening review: Duke of York’s Theatre, London

Judgement:

Spider-Man Tom Holland would never have much trouble scaling the walls of the Capulets’ villa in Verona to reach Juliet’s balcony in Shakespeare’s love story.

But ultimately Jamie Lloyd’s daringly mournful production, which premiered in the West End last night, only requires him to reach the dizzying heights of a microphone stand.

Yes, this new production of Romeo & Juliet is a quintessential example of Lloyd celebrity minimalism – following in the footsteps of James McAvoy in Cyrano and Nicole Scherzinger in Sunset Boulevard.

As usual, that means a run on the microphones in the capital for a production that is whispered (and sometimes only inhaled) into the amplification system.

Spider-Man Tom Holland would never have much trouble scaling the walls of the Capulets’ villa in Verona to reach Juliet’s balcony in Shakespeare’s love story

But ultimately Jamie Lloyd's daringly mournful production, which premiered in the West End last night, only requires him to reach the dizzying heights of a microphone stand.  Pictured: Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Romeo and Juliet

But ultimately Jamie Lloyd’s daringly mournful production, which premiered in the West End last night, only requires him to reach the dizzying heights of a microphone stand. Pictured: Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Romeo and Juliet

As usual, that means a run on the microphones in the capital for a production that is whispered (and sometimes only inhaled) into the amplification system.

As usual, that means a run on the microphones in the capital for a production that is whispered (and sometimes only inhaled) into the amplification system.

Gone is the sunshine of beautiful Verona, where Shakespeare plays his play.

Instead we get the Stygian darkness of Soutra Gilmour’s set design – empty, but with lighting rigs and a giant cinematic billboard showing close-ups of the action as cameramen follow actors on stage and around the building itself (Romeo’s exile to Mantua takes him upstairs). on the roof).

The play is about famous death and Lloyd makes the most of it, with a cast dressed in black jeans, T-shirts and hoodies. It is monotone, monochrome and mannered. If you were to feel the pulse of the production, you might be tempted to call a priest.

At times, it even feels like Lloyd is deliberately trying to choke the life out of the feverish passion that normally drives this tempestuous love story. And yet, the hour comes, the (Spider) man comes… all six feet of him.

Damn, he’s a muscular and handsome guy. His impressive cheekbones and curved jaw suck the breath out of the audience and keep us enveloped in his dreamy gaze.

Instead we get the Stygian darkness of Soutra Gilmour's set design – empty, but with lighting rigs and a giant cinematic billboard showing close-ups of the action as cameramen follow actors on stage and around the building itself (Romeo's exile to Mantua takes him upstairs).  on the roof)

Instead we get the Stygian darkness of Soutra Gilmour’s set design – empty, but with lighting rigs and a giant cinematic billboard showing close-ups of the action as cameramen follow actors on stage and around the building itself (Romeo’s exile to Mantua takes him upstairs). on the roof)

The play is about famous death and Lloyd makes the most of it, with a cast dressed in black jeans, T-shirts and hoodies.

The play is about famous death and Lloyd makes the most of it, with a cast dressed in black jeans, T-shirts and hoodies.

It is monotone, monochrome and mannered.  If you were to feel the pulse of the production, you might be tempted to call a priest

It is monotone, monochrome and mannered. If you were to feel the pulse of the production, you might be tempted to call a priest

At times, it even feels like Lloyd is deliberately trying to choke the life out of the feverish passion that normally drives this tempestuous love story.  Pictured: Daniel Quinn-Toye stars as Paris

At times, it even feels like Lloyd is deliberately trying to choke the life out of the feverish passion that normally drives this tempestuous love story. Pictured: Daniel Quinn-Toye stars as Paris

Nima Taleghani (photo) stars as Benvolio

Nima Taleghani (photo) stars as Benvolio

I missed the color of the masquerade ball where Romeo and Juliet meet, and the drama of the sword fight when Romeo disastrously kills Juliet's cousin Tybalt

I missed the color of the masquerade ball where Romeo and Juliet meet, and the drama of the sword fight when Romeo disastrously kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt

1716498180 143 Romeo Juliet review This Romeo may be monochrome and

Freema Agyeman (photo) stars as a nurse

Freema Agyeman (photo) stars as a nurse

After meeting Juliet, he does a jig like a football player celebrating a goal, but otherwise moves with the precision of a cat. And while silence suits him best, the shy smiles he showers on his lover are – in Hollywood terms – worth a million dollars. Under the circumstances, Francesca Amewudah-Rivers holds up well as Juliet.

Lloyd discourages her from showing too much personality or an independent spirit (as he does with everyone else), yet she has a quiet maturity that fits easily with the poetry.

Likewise, Michael Balogun as Brother Lawrence imposes gravity and common sense on the not-so-rash young lovers. The only surprise is Freema Agyeman as Julia’s youthful nurse.

Normally spacious, older and talkative, Nurse here is a 30-year-old party girl with character. Much of her writing in the Bard’s original is omitted, and instead she gets lines from Julia’s mother, who has controversially been ditched altogether.

I missed the color of the masquerade ball where Romeo and Juliet meet, and the drama of the sword fight when Romeo disastrously kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt.

But we may not get the chance to see the Netherlands live on stage again if Hollywood has its way – so happy are those who already have a ticket for this remarkable but almost sold-out requiem. And even luckier are those who can afford Β£275 each.