Kirsty Mackay as Juliet

I don’t do drugs, I do Art.

When spending my sweaty cash on the arts, be it music, theatre or visual, I need to get high, get off and get exhilarated by my art-spend, baby.

Ich bin ein Art-User, addicted to escaping that carping shrill voice that whinges and whines, on and on: ‘what are you going to do about him’, ‘why can’t they do it themselves’ and ‘what the hell are you doing with your life, ya big fat loser’.

Shakespeare is usually a bad trip.  All that convoluted language that everybody gets?  It could be written in Norn, to my ears.  Worse, if you admit you don’t get it, it’s like confessing to hating your greens and refusing to eat them as an adult.  People look at you funny.

Perfectly functional actors suddenly turn into private school headmasters with sonorous vowels and clipped elocution; enunciating the fine lines of the bard with unctuous ceremony.

It’s not the posh accents that are off-putting per se.  It’s the art-criminals who recite Shakespeare like bedtime prayers learned by rote.

Great actors are FEELINGs-merchants.  They hawk emotions to the highest bidder.  You can’t FEEL the words if they are being spoken by lizards.

And great directors are those that have the guts to cut and shape the ancient text of he-who-shakes-the-spear.  All those in-jokes of the time must have been terribly funny in their day but unless the audience is sitting with side-notes, they’re only laughing by numbers.

Thankfully, fellow emotions-junkies can get totally wasted on Romeo and Juliet at Edinburgh’s Lyceum.  The audience chuckled and  guffawed; tears were shed and FEELINGS were highly aroused.

Will Featherstone & Kirsty Mackay as Romeo & Juliet

There’s only two weeks left of the run but you absolutely MUST go see it if you want to ‘get’ Shakespeare.  It finishes on 16th October.

There are so many brilliant performances, from the camp to the fey, the sweety-wifey and the arch; it is truly the best Shakespeare EVER.  And totally accessible.

Tony Cownie, the director, has sliced the text and scenes with the surgical precision of a master-swordsman to reveal the beating heart of the greatest tragic love story ever told.

There are no convolutions.  It is gobbledee goop-free and totally yah-lite while still retaining the lyrical vigour and pure dope iambic pentameter of the spear-shaker.  This pared down epic of doomed youth is performed with a taut string grasped greedily by each and every actor in their prime.

The cast is a who’s who of great Scottish talent. There is Grant O’Rourke’s electrifying Mercutio, Steven McNicoll’s uber-camp Servant, Liam Brennan’s complex and torn Capulet, Alexandra Mathie’s loveable and well-meaning nurse and too many other great performances to mention.

Then there are the young stars: Will Featherstone’s Geordie Romeo is played breathlessly and utterly believably by the immensely talented 24yr old. The beautiful Juliet, played by an even younger and stunningly gifted Kirsty Mackay (only in 2nd Year at RSAMD) transforms from a childish scootering 14yr old to the passionate woman prepared to die for love rather than live for convenience.

Philip Pinsky’s haunting music mirrors the playful and tragic moments on stage and Neil Murray’s stark yet lushly decadent black marbled set is to be used for next month’s play: Oscar Wilde’s ‘trivial comedy for serious people’, The Importance of Being Earnest starting 22nd October.  Yet another example of spectacular green arts credentials since the cast are also to be Recycled and Reused, although perhaps not Reduced.

All praise to Mark Thomson, the Artistic Director of the Lyceum, who has unleashed yet another earthy, real and passionate piece of art for us Edinburgh mainliners.

Or should I say, Mark Thomson, my new arts crack-dealer for Autumn.

©Fin Wycherley

PS. Do let me know if you agree, I’d love to hear your views.

Related Articles

  • Thom Dibdin in The Stage: Romeo and Juliet – “A big, thoughtful and entertaining production”
  • Catherine Henderson in Informed Edinburgh: Romeo and Juliet at the Lyceum – “The Lyceum’s production is one not to be missed by the flock of resident Edinburgh culture-vultures, but also is one to prioritise for those of us who feed far too infrequently on the substantial delights that the theatre can bring”
  • Michael Cox in Onstage Scotland: Romeo and Juliet – “It is constantly creative, and it also manages to surprise”
  • Neil Cooper in The Herald: Romeo and Juliet – “With a pushy mother who only wants a Hello! magazine society wedding, this daddy’s girl’s rebellion is set from the off”
  • Ros MacKenzie in Lothian Life: Romeo and Juliet Review – “Shakespeare might have been persuaded that after 300 years a fresh approach is always welcome”
  • Helene Cloete in Edinburgh Theatre Review: Romeo and Juliet – “A well-staged, well-performed show”
  • Keith D in Edinburgh Spotlight: Romeo and Juliet, Lyceum Theatre – “By pitching this dynamic and explosive production of Romeo and Juliet somewhere between a TV teen drama and an action movie, director Tony Cownie not only succeeds in making it appeal to Shakespeare first-timers, but also to those jaded by one too many pedestrian adaptations in the past.”
  • Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman: Romeo and Juliet – “Every word of every speech glistens with life and understanding.”
  • Val Baskott in Public Reviews: Romeo and Juliet – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – “A sparkling vibrant performance from Cownie and the Company, highly recommended”
  • Malcolm McGonigle in The Skinny: Romeo and Juliet@TheLyceum “a great night out with William Shakespeare
  • Amy Taylor in The Journal: Romeo and Juliet “a welcome example of the Lyceum’s ongoing contributions to Scottish theatre”
  • See an interview with Tony Cownie and the cast here
  • Listen to my interview with Will Featherstone (Romeo) and Kirsty Mackay (Juliet) as broadcast on Leith Tonight, 12th September 2010.

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