Teenagers filled row after row in the Barbican Theatre to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet. All behaved impeccably, some dutifully took notes, most (I would guess) enjoyed and were moved by Adrian Noble's production.
Zubin Varla and Lucy Whybrow are believably young: the tragic decisions they make when left to their own devices or inadequately advised by their elders, and their inability to see love in perspective are, for once, credible. Whybrow, especially, is a delightfully intense, focused performer. If anything is missing in this relationship it is the joy of new experience, but, like most teenagers, these two makethe most of the drama of extreme emotion.
In Kendra Ullyart's design, Verona seems to have moved south and the period is more Edwardian than Renaissance. The ingenious set becomes a sunny street hung with washing, a ballroom, the Friar's cell, the Capulets' garden or vault with the minimum fuss. Julian Glover's worldly-wise Friar Lawrence stops for the odd espresso in the piazza cafe. There is a sense of a complete society here, the lives of ordinary people disrupted by the aristocratic squabbles of the Montagues and Capulets. The only jarring note is Mark Lockyer's Mercutio. This clever, cultured, sensitive character has become a febrile show-off who gabs about Queen Mab just for laughs.
HN. Running time, 3 hours. Tickets: 0171 638 8891.