Wednesday 13th – Sunday 24th July 2005

Rowntree Park

Charles Hutchinson in the The Yorkshire Evening Press wrote:

THE Nurse on the pink scooter had to go – that old enemy called insurance put paid to that idea – but Sarah Punshon’s revitalisation of Romeo And Juliet is still a fifties freshener to rival a Knickerbocker Glory.

Punshon is a hot catch for York Shakespeare Project: the Cambridge graduate has just spent 18 months at the West Yorkshire Playhouse as resident trainee director.

York Shakespeare Project had already secured permission to stage Romeo And Juliet on RowntreePark’s band stand, when fifties movie fan Punshon suggested a post-war setting of 1950s small-town Italy to add to the outdoor frisson.

“The chance to see my cast in full skirts and quiffs seemed too good to pass up,” she says.

West Side Story has passed this way before, but Punshon brings her own vision to Shakespeare’s play through audacious casting and bravura performances, and a design spec closer to William Wyler’s multi-coloured Roman Holiday than Fellini minimalism.

In her view, Romeo And Juliet is a comedy that quickly and irrevocably goes wrong, and the play’s early scenes reflect that philosophy.

Howard Spencer-Mosley, more often to be spotted as a stand-up comedian with an anarchic twinkle, brings a new physicality to Romeo; he is still poetic, with pencil and pad, but he flicks his fingers, cups his hands, spins around in ballet movement and flares into sudden violence. His ever- expressive eyes, however, are still the key to his shifting thoughts.

Katie Martin, a YorkSt John’sCollege student from Billingham, is a more distilled performer. Where the virtuoso Spencer-Mosley goes up and down the scales, she focuses more on the words than movement, and her north- eastern accent is a lovely instrument to hear (in the manner of Northern Broadsides’ Shakespeare shows).

The most radical casting choice is Cecily Boys, an ironic surname for a woman in the traditionally male role of Mercutio. The switch from boy to Boys works to the good: she is a comic dynamo, Queen Mab’s speech takes on an even tangier sauciness, and the fiery Tybalt’s deep-rooted hatred of the Montagues now sees no boundary between man or woman for murderous assault.

Ben Fogarty, as shaven nutter Tybalt, is another find, while real-life nurse Pauline Redman plays the Nurse to the manner born.

York Shakespeare Project has taken a big stride forward in the open air: now keep adding new faces and performing in different places.


See also: The British Theatre Guide review by Peter Lathan.


Cast

Lord Montague Harold Mozley
Lady Mntague Val Parker
Romeo Howard Spencer-Mosley
Benvolio David Crowley
Abram Laura Rafferty
Balthazar/Watchman Richard Hawley
Lord Capulet Ged Murray
Lady Capulet Ali Borthwick
Juliet Katie Martin
Tybalt Ben Fogarty
Nurse Pauline Redman
Susan Donna Preston
Sampson Stuart Jarman
Gregory Alan Flower
Potpan Sophie Gojewicz
Prince Escalus Jeremy Muldowney
Mercutio Cecily Boys
Paris Luke Dane
Friar Lawrence Kingsley G Hoffman
Apothecary/Prince’s Retainer Fran Tomlin
Anthony/Paris’ Page Emily Graham
Prince’s Retainer Krupa Rajangam
Chief Watchman Simon Trow
Watchmen David Wilson

Company

Director Sarah Punshon
Producer Alan Lyons
Assistant Director Antonio Ferrara
Choreographer Vicky Rook
Fight Director Paul Toy
Set Designer Krupa Rajangam
Costume Designer Val Parker
Stage Manager Neil Millar
Deputy Stage Manager Jez Scott
Assistant Stage manager Ben Walden
Continuity Julia Atkinson
Properties Kirsty McKinnon
Set Builder Luke Dane
Costume Makers Sally Exley, Claire Gilham
Drapes Maker Marjorie Sharpe
Publicity, Posters, and Programme Ray Alexander
Front of House Ray Baggaley, Chris Rawson