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The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1982)

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1982 (USA)  »

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Somnambulant Juliet Ruins Respectable Performance
23 September 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This version is a filmed play set on a stage, and it therefore lacks the refinements of a Hollywood movie. As a stage play it does a great job of conveying how it may have appeared to an Elizabethan audience. Unfortunately, it also lacks one requirement: a Juliet who can act.

Except for Juliet, most of the casting is respectable enough. Alex Hyde-White's Romeo has a bit of a whiny voice, but you get used to it. Dan Hamilton's Mercutio is a bit too refined for the ribald swordsman. And Esther Rolle's Nurse is more stern than flighty, which gives her jokes an unusual harshness. The rest of the cast is solid.

Which brings us to Blanche Baker... wow.... She manages to drain any sexual tension out of every line. Her part of the sonnet spoken to Romeo during the party (i.e., "pilgrims' hands") were spoken as if she were actually praying in church, which makes the subsequent kisses uncomfortably out of place. The balcony scene was especially disconcerting: Mr. Hyde-White was acting and doing his best to play off Ms. Baker, but her responses were so wooden I began to feel sorry for him. Probably not the emotion they were trying for. Ms. Baker never gets better.

With a better Juliet this would have been rated 4 or 5 out of 10.

Teachers looking for a staged version should use the 1976 Joan Kemp-Welch play, which is slightly better than the 1978 BBC/Alvin Rakoff play.


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