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Sharon ‘n’ Barry do Romeo and Juliet sums up all of the reasons why Zoom is not a sustainable platform for theatre. The show is framed like a family zoom gathering, and our star couple allegedly have absolutely no knowledge of Shakespeare. After seeing this I have to ask myself: Who on Earth begins a performance with five straight minutes of hoovering?
After developing a headache from the noise, we are thrown into a grotesque living room of pink stripes and beige fittings. It’s a miserable viewer experience from start to finish with no respect for the frame. Rather than using the camera as an opportunity for humour, the actors repeatedly block themselves off and obscure the view. With so many creatives responding to the Covid-19 crisis by making insightful and entertaining pieces of theatre at such a crucial point of history, there really is no excuse.
What irks me the most (far more than the tone-deaf handling of suicide) is that Romeo and Juliet is such a magnificent work of humour in itself. If your most constructed joke is a couple arguing on mute, how on earth is anyone supposed to enjoy this? I’m sure we can all agree that one of the most uncomfortable things to witness onstage is an actor trying way too hard, especially when they are desperate to make you laugh. They butcher the lines, even worse so because this butchering is deliberate. It is appallingly unfunny with boring adlib and wooden vocal work. But what can you expect when the actors are deliberately overacting?
The comedic opportunities available through new online mediums are full of potential so why take a play that’s been battered to death and abuse it further? There’s nothing groundbreaking to be found here; it’s eighty straight minutes of two actors pretending that they’re terrible performers. The only salvation for this production is a Michael Gove cardboard cutout. Further development for this could include a larger cutout and other politicians involved in the street fights.
In the first lockdown, this may have been some mindless fun in response to the shock of a global pandemic. There were some moments that could be understandably funny with further development. We are now at 135,000 deaths in our third lockdown and I did not see a single audience member laugh. If you want a fast track to giving yourself a headache, then this is the production for you.
Sharon ‘n’ Barry do Romeo and Juliet is playing online until 6th March. For more information and tickets, see Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s website.