Monday, 15 October 2012

'A Tender Thing' at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford upon Avon.

'Is love really tender? I think it’s too rough, too rude, too rowdy, and it pricks like a thorn.' - Romeo (Act 1, Scene 4, P.2)

A Tender Thing is a remodelled version of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet. Ben Powers interpretation incorporates lines from a number of the plays characters to portray the love between an elderly version of the couple. The extracts used are well suited to the adapted story line and retain the themes of tragedy and love from the original play but with new meaning and scope. The total running time is only an hour and twenty minutes without an interval so the story is fast paced which reflects how quickly years can pass.

The play has only two characters - Romeo and Juliet. This creates an intimate setting which draws the audience into the emotional and dramatic journey of their love. Displayed behind them is a screen frequently showing old photos of the couple against a repetitive wave pattern. Viewing personal images creates a sense of closeness and familiarity to the characters.  The stage itself has patches of sand and the furniture reflects that of a beach house. The inclusion of the ocean reflects the continuous nature of both love and life.

I knew little about how the production had been adapted before watching it and found many of the scenes unbearably sad. I perceived the presentation of death and the end of love as a display of love as futile.  However, after further consideration I began to think more deeply about the writers intentions. The production is about all aspects of live not just falling in love. It's an honest presentation of what happens when an elderly couple are tested by illness then parted by death, something most people have witnessed in their lives. Power presents the audience with a story which is harrowing and scary but beautifully done at the same time.

I'd definitely recommend this production to anyone who wants to see something a little different. It'll certainly make you think.

Directed by : Helena Kaut-Howson
Performed : Swan Theatre, RSC Stratford upon Avon
Starring :  Katheryn Hunt and Richard Mccabe
Run time : 1hr 20min
On until : 20th October 2012

Image copyright of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (
Extract taken from : Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Norton's Anthology. Chicago: Hampton Publishers, 2004. 55-104. Print.

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