Juliet And Her Romeo, Old Vic, Bristol

3.00

Who says that there are no parts for the older actress? As the debate about the problems of an ageing population intensifies, opportunities seem to be proliferating. First there was the 75-year- old Judi Dench developing a passion for a donkey less than half her age in Peter Hall's enchanting Midsummer Night's Dream. Now we have the 76-year-old Siâ*Phillips as a heart-stopping Juliet in Juliet and her Romeo, a version of Shakespeare's tragedy that's been heavily reworked (by Tom Morris and co-adaptor Sean O'Connor) to engage with the issues raised by the so-called "grey tsunami". Instead of opposition from the older generation, this Romeo (Michael Byrne) and his Juliet have to contend with the love-thwarting self-interest and prejudices of the younger folk in the shape of a scheming daughter and the medical staff in the care home where they languish.

Still ravishingly beautiful (those facial bones!), Phillips also radiates an inner loveliness as Juliet and speaks the verse with an ardour that takes your breath away, sometimes wittily modifying her delivery to acknowledge the change of circumstance. Her Juliet is a physically frail but spiritually intrepid lady, almost like the ghost of herself in her white nightdress and lace shawl and yet at the same time still situated within a body that she refuses to consign to some socially dictated scrap heap. She conjures a beautiful rapport with the audience that is enhanced by Morris's visually striking production that gives back to the delightful horseshoe-shaped Bristol Old Vic its original forestage, thus allowing Tom Pye's care-home set an almost Citizen Kane-like depth of focus. The wilderness of armchairs in the care home recedes dreamily and drearily right back into the furthest suburbs of the acting space.

I wish that I could be as complimentary about the rest of the proceedings. Watching this well-meant but incoherent – and I'm afraid sophomoric-seeming – farrago, I kept thinking two things. Why not just do the play straight but with elderly actors in the lead parts? That would raise all the "issues" laboriously invoked here with a tacit eloquence. Or why not hire a contemporary dramatist to do a thorough rewrite? Here, we are invited to believe that the play's deadly feud is between those who have private rooms and those who are forced to muck in on the public wards. In order to cope with the medical bills, Juliet's trouser-suited daughter is putting pressure on her to marry the wealthy Paris, a gaga old codger who blunders round the place wearing a medal and holding a bunch of flowers. She has a brother (the Tybalt stand-in) who is also a resident and swipes aside the Zimmer frame of Dudley Sutton's endearingly cherubic Mercutio prior to walloping him fatally with a walking stick.

Nearly every detail grates and fails to convince. Indulgent laughter greets the idea, in the balcony scene, that Michael Byrne's Romeo (who is sympathetic but about as impetuous as a cup of Complan) has scaled walls to get there. The physical relationship is conducted by little chaste, tight-lipped kisses and a show that is designed to stick up for the old comes across as dismayingly juvenile.

To 24 April (0117 987 7877)

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little