An insight into the rehearsal process of Sherman Cymru’s Romeo and Juliet

Chris Gordon and Sophie Melville, who play Romeo and Juliet.
On Thursday the 11th of September, I was invited to go and see a rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet at the Sherman Theatre Cymru, Cardiff. In my lifetime I’ve seen countless Romeo and Juliet productions, each one trying to bring their own stamp towards it. While some ideas work well, some productions were trying to hard to be unique therefore taking away the real essence of what the play was about. I was nervous and excited when entering the rehearsal space, as the company was only two weeks out of six into their rehearsal process. I believe it takes many months to master any Shakespearian play and the fact they’ve been given six is quite risky. Rachel O’Riordan, directing this production gave us an insight into her mind, showing us a snippet of how she will take on one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.
The first scene we watched was Act 2 Scene 4 where the Nurse looks for Romeo in order to gain some confidence with him in terms of marrying Juliet. This whole scene is already filled with moments of hilarity and great characterisation. The relationship between the actors on stage and off is a delight to see. The atmosphere is filled with driven energy, so much lightheartedness and fun. Rachel provides a great working space for her actors so they can experiment on how they can expand their acting skills.
The second scene we saw was a complete contrast to the first. This scene, Act 3 Scene 3 is where Romeo is talking to Friar Lawrence and finding out he’s banished from Verona. The company ran through the scene once and then sat down with Rachel in the middle of them exploring every single line, every word. They discussed what the line would mean in Shakespearian times and why it would seem unorthodox to say it now. Rachel directed this scene brilliantly and showed me a deeper insight into the mind of Romeo. The collaboration between experienced actors who have been in the industry for many years and actors who are just starting out was mesmerising. They bounced of each other, learned from each other and therefore made the work so much more engaging. Rachel’s experience as a director demonstrated that she knew just how to motivate and engage the actors in her company.
The only thing I would have liked to have seen is a scene with Juliet. Personally I detest this character and generally the way people perceive her to be. I’ve often seen the character played to be whiny and just completely annoying. In the Q&A session I asked Rachel how she would direct the portrayal of Juliet in the production. It seemed to me that Rachel also shared some of my reservations of the representation of the character of Juliet on stage. When I asked Rachel she agreed that Juliet is a strong character and shouldn’t be played down. It’ll be interesting to see how Sophie Melville, playing this character will interpret this role.
Overall through this insight into the rehearsal process it is clear Rachel has spent a great deal of time trying to figure out exactly how she wants to create her directorial vision of Romeo and Juliet. I’m excited to see this production and you should be too. There are many great actors in this production and they all bring their own personal edge to the characters we know. Rachel O’Riordan has great directing skills and I have a lot of faith that she will do this play justice.
Romeo and Juliet plays at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff on the 2-18 of October.

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