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Reflections of a working writer and reader



A white wench’s black eye

We were at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet at The Lowry in Salford. Directed by Neil Bartlett and designed by Kandis Cook, the play is set in the violent, Catholic world of 1940s Italy. It looks rather like Coppola’s Godfather trilogy and sounds wonderful, the actors being supported by the blowsy music of an Italian fiesta band playing live on stage.

David Dawson, who plays Romeo

David Dawson, who plays Romeo

David Dawson and Anneika Rose take the lead roles, and for each of them it is their debut production for the RSC. Dawson recently played Smike in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, for which he received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Newcomer in a Play. Twenty-two-year-old Glaswegian actress, Rose, inherited the part of Juliet for which she was acting as understudy when the original actress was taken ill. She comes to the role of Juliet after graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in July.

Julie Legrand as the Nurse and Anneika Rose as Juliet

Julie Legrand as the Nurse and Anneika Rose as Juliet

There is little in the way of scenery or props; a huge brick wall at the rear of the stage; a bed, of course, a ladder, some flick-knives, chairs and letters, but nothing the audience has to wait for or that might slow down the delivery.

The production is concerned to emphasise the brutality of the world these star-crossed lovers inhabit, its loveless conformity and insistence on patriarchal control. In Shakespeare’s time as well as in our own girls were rewarded for being what they were expected to be and boys for overstepping the mark.

The couple are faced with the cruelty and intolerance of their parents and weave their way towards a tragic death even though everyone around them seems to act for what they believe is their best interest.

The supporting cast here is strong, and the two leads relatively inexperienced. Nevertheless, Romeo and Juliet is a play that stands or falls on the input of the two lovers, and in this production, they put so much energy and dedication into their parts, that for me and the party I was with, the production never faltered. Dawson, as Romeo, was a revelation, being for the most part suitably besotted and the perfect image of a youth who can’t wait to get his hands on this certain girl.

And Anneika Rose, as that certain girl, was just fresh-faced enough, and showed enough pluck to lead him by the nose whenever he faltered, to stand up against the injustices of her parents, and give the audience a real treat with a practically blank CV to recommend her.

Alas poor Romeo! he is already dead; stabbed with a
white wench’s black eye; shot through the ear with a
love-song; the very pin of his heart cleft with the
blind bow-boy’s butt-shaft:

And outstanding, apart from the leads, are Owain Arthur as Peter, and Julie Legrand as the Nurse, both of them with a practised handle on comedy which oils the wheels and keeps the play rolling along.

One Response to “A white wench’s black eye”

  1. David Gradenzio Marck says:

    Try to be cool in your comments? that is a classic example of contrdiction in terms – critic is never cool or popular even less if they are paid to write praises…

    just wodered how A. Rose even ‘got’ the role in this..? when did she graduate from the the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama? I am afraid i can confirm – a little more than energy and dedication is required for a classic role of this kind – you need to be more than just experienced and dedicated to act genuinely and convincingly even in a modern adaptation…
    could someone tell me what Neil Bartlett or Kandis Cook really know about 1940’s Italy and who did the research for them?

    is STV running out of good and experienced actors to be casting A. Rose for a role of diversity unit DC?

    as to the chances of new authors to publish alongside with the estabished authors – it is again all about money; and people who are allowed to handle them… let’s get real – this is still a class society britain – you are judged by others as soon as you open your mouth and without money you remain nobody..