Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Story of woe and boundless talent

Romeo & Juliet

Stage 2

Crescent Theatre, Birmingham


IT would be a hard-to-please patron who hoped to find more drama than that provided here by Shakespeare (Wm), modified, tweaked and augmented by director Light (Liz “Guiding”) in this, the latest superb production by a young company which, of necessity, changes substantially every year. 

Fate being what it is, the first-night audience got this unlikely bonus. The first fiery, tumultuous scene after the interval is played on the stage-right balcony, almost within touching distance of those audience members who are sitting at that side of the auditorium.

When it ended, the players left their tiny playing space – and almost immediately, a stage flat, draped in white cloth, fell forward and crashed onto the safety rail. The immediate audience gave a collective gasp but lived to tell the tale. 

And what a tale it is. Yet again, this young group has been challenged to rise far above what in normal circumstances would be expectations, and it has met that challenge head-on. Yes, there are peccadilloes: One or two cast members don't speak up as plainly as they might, and there is the occasional mumble. But overall, here is a team of all the talents, sublimely declining to put a foot or a syllable wrong and even investing the sword-fighting choreography designed by Wayne Fitzsimmons with a ration of realism that may well have exceeded his hopes. 


The production deserves, and receives, top-quality support from Charlotte Joberns' lighting. The tomb scene is one that especially benefits from this, as the body-count increases and the lamentations become louder. 

But throughout, this is a venture that proclaims its own virtues. You don't need subtitles to realise that you have stumbled on something special. 

Connor Fox and Priya Edwards are the star-cross'd lovers, splendid in their maturity, riveting in their fury and their dying – a pairing that bespeaks the quality that runs through the whole production, from its tragic twin centrepiece to its excellent young pages and maids.  

The paired Prologues are Rosa Simonet and Jacoba Williams, who speak both individually and with one voice to leave us in no doubt that this is going to be a production bursting with the quality we have come to expect from Stage 2. Alex Earle (Tybalt) and Rowan Turner-Powell (Mercutio) brim with energy, Tom Booth (the Prince) backs his height with an authoritative air, and Emily Nabney makes Nurse a fiery evangelist of the glottal stop. 

Alexander Butler, powerful of voice and stature, wears a natural authority as a Capulet who betrays his wife (the excellent Chloe Jones) in his new-found attentiveness to Lady Montague (Bernadette O'Toole), and Sam Hotchin is a wordily worthy Friar. 

There was a first-night standing ovation – then, yet again, Stage 2 sent its audience home in grateful and heady disbelief, although old hands among the patrons know that this happens every time. It is extraordinarily fitting that it ends on Shakespeare's birthday. To  23-04-11

John Slim

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