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Romeo and Juliet, Performed in the Ancient Temple Church

| Theatre, Uncategorized | 02/09/2014

temple church london

Temple Church’s looming pillars form the corners of the stage, while dim light outside illuminates the stain-glass windows. In the shadows cast by the venue’s substantial architecture, Antic Disposition’s cast nimbly circumnavigates the audience to appear on stage. The actors emerge from the shadows into Tom Boucher’s blood red floodlights, establishing the intent to make the tragedy tangible from the word go.

Boucher’s lighting is perfectly matched by James Burrow’s score, often deep and ominous, which plots the lovers’ inevitable demise. While a brief interlude of tinkling piano echoes the pair’s hope and happiness as they kiss, the ominous tone returns as Romeo and Juliet part.

Bryony Tebbutt as Juliet, Dylan Kennedy as Romeo

Thus light and sound and space have already enraptured the audience before we get on to the merits of Dylan Kennedy as Romeo and Bryony Tebbutt as Juliet. Kennedy’s youthful face and lithe movements portray a boyish Romeo. His inconsolable melancholy is typical of loves’ first infatuating touch. The other extremes he portrays; of delight in Juliet’s company and despair at her death are achieved effortlessly, as we behold a young innocent, buffeted by powers beyond his control. Tebbutt’s Juliet is equally as youthfully depicted, as she frets over her love, then screams and flaps when she hears they are to be married. Tebbutt, however, also excels in the more devious side to her character, as she deceives her parents.

James Murfitt’s restless energy lends itself excellently to the rakish role of Mercutio. When on stage with debutant Jack Joseph (Tybalt), the tension mounts rapidly as the two size each other up. In contrast to Murfitt’s lively presence, Joseph’s sweeping movements and dark stares portray an unexpected (though very enjoyable) command of the stage. While Kennedy and Tebbutt play hide and seek in the balcony scene, there is none of this playfulness in Tybalt and Mercutio’s dual. Their egos electrify the atmosphere and in the ensuing fight scene, the expertise of choreographer Richard Jones is obvious.

Dylan Kennedy as Romeo, Jack Joseph as Tybalt

If Murfitt and Joseph provide the moments with the greatest tension, Friar Laurence (Russell Anthony) and Nurse are the two characters with whom we most empathise. Evans is in one moment nagging and complaining about her old age; in the next moment caught up in the lovers’ plans. The rapport between Evans and Tebbutt is palpable; of genuine affection and exasperation on both sides. Thus it is fitting that Nurse’s grief stricken wail on discovering her charge’s suicide is the most heart rending of them all.

Russell Anthony as Friar Laurence, Dylan Kennedy as Romeo

The human qualities portrayed by Anthony, from his drinking habit, to his compassionate consolation of the distraught Romeo, commend him to the audience. Being the facilitator both of their marriage and of their deaths, our ability to empathise with Friar Laurence further exacerbates the tragedy because we cannot use him as a scapegoat.

Antic Disposition’s up-beat rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet filled the ancient Temple Church with fresh passion, violence and sorrow. On the site of the first recorded performance of Twelfth Night, Ben Horslen and John Risebero present a rendition that artfully brings the impending tragedy to the fore throughout the evening.


William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet plays at Temple Church, Temple, London, EC4Y 7BB until 7th September 2014, Daily at 8pm with Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 3pm. (No performance Tuesday 2nd September) Tickets are £15 – £35. To book visit


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