In a bid to extend the cultural outlook of daughters 1 and 2 beyond X-Factor and the screens of their Nintendo DSs I took them to see the RSC production of Romeo and Juliet at Stratford on Saturday. They loved it. Me—not so much.
Bit of a facer, that. I’ve adored this play since I was sixteen and was desperately excited about seeing it again and hearing those lines that I sometimes say inside my head when I'm hanging out washing or can't get to sleep (I’m a particular fan of Juliet’s ‘gallop apace’ speech, and the deliciously gothic one in Act 4 about Tybalt festering in his shroud.) But this time I couldn't shake off the feeling that something was distinctly lacking.
I had plenty of time to think about it (three hours twenty five minutes, to be precise) and came to the conclusion early in the second half that my lack of enthusiasm was directly related to my job. While my girls were engrossed in the story I was thinking, where’s the tension? Where’s the realism? Where in the name of the bard is the pulsing, teenage hormonal sexual chemistry?? (In other words where's Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting??)
The playwright has actors to bring his lines of dialogue to life (ideally.) The novelist has to do it herself, getting across the mood of the speaker by specifically describing physical action, or by using tags. Your heroine will say something while fiddling idly/nervously/savagely with the glass on the table in front of her. Or she’ll say whatever it is softly/hesitantly/bitterly. What she won’t do is annunciate exquisite words of tenderness and love at the top of her voice while making exaggerated, sweeping gestures and looking beyond her man and out into the middle distance.
Call me an outrageous philistine and strip me of my BA(hons) but for romance give me Mills & Boon anyday. Next time I'll take the girls to see Macbeth.