Saturday 13 October 2012
Theatre review: A Tender Thing
Apparently the question "what would have happened if Romeo and Juliet had lived and grown older" is one that continues to haunt writers and actors. (I don't know why, the answer is "they'd have broken up within a fortnight." Oh shush, you know they would.) Ben Power doesn't quite attempt to answer this question: Instead he creates a new Romeo and Juliet out of the original words of Shakespeare's play.
We meet Juliet (Hunter) on her deathbed, but soon Romeo's (Richard McCabe) recollections take us back to the very earliest days of their relationship and the first flush of love that doesn't seem to have faded since. What has faded is Juliet's health, and eventually she will find herself asking her husband to help her die.
Director Helena Kaut-Howson has, along with movement director Jane Gibson, given the play a balletic touch that helps push along the moments where the high concept leaves the text a bit strained. Romeo and Juliet often slow-dance together, whether in flashback to their younger days, or in later attempts to relive these dances, Juliet unable to get around as well until eventually, reluctantly, she has to be spun around by Romeo in her wheelchair. Jacques Collin's projections, which evoke the feel of the couple's seaside retirement home on Neil Murray's bare-ish set, often places them in whirling vortices for these dances, giving them a sense of impending doom.
Back in January there was a whole slew of plays dealing with the issue of assisted suicide, and A Tender Thing fits into their ranks as, perhaps inevitably given the source material, the most lyrical entry. It's sad, of course - I spotted a few red eyes as I looked down into the stalls and there was a conspicuous amount of sniffing and nose-blowing as the house lights went up - but it doesn't tip over into becoming something depressing.
A Tender Thing by Ben Power, based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, is booking until the 30th of October at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes straight through.