I go to the theatre maybe once or twice a year in Newcastle, but it’s been ages since I’ve seen Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy and my all time favourite – Romeo & Juliet. Last week I took my mum for an evening out courtesy of Cote Brasserie and the Royal Shakespeare Company. We enjoyed a pre show dinner followed by a live screening of their latest Romeo & Juliet performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.
Pre show dinner at Cote Brasserie
I think nearly everyone I know had been to Cote in Newcastle except me, and I’d heard really good things about their French onion soup so was dying to try it. Our reservation was at 5:30pm, early so we had plenty time before the show started.
We began with their summer aperitif, the Pampelle Spritz to sip on, and some mixed olives for while we browsed the menus. There were four menus to choose from, including the normal a la carte menu, the July lunch and early dinner menu, and two set menus, a normal one and a prestige one with some fancier options on.
Set menus are really handy if you’re trying to watch the pennies, and the early dinner menu is perfect for a pre dinner meal as it ends at 7pm. When in restaurants I’ll always choose exactly what I fancy though, so I went for the famous french onion soup, followed by seafood linguine. I judge most restaurants on their seafood as it’s my absolute favourite so being my first time I had to choose it.
Viv went for the charentais melon with savoie ham, followed by the rib eye steak with frittes and finger carrots. Our choices happened to be part of the prestige set menu, which for two courses comes to £15.95, and for three £18.95.
I’m very pleased to report that the french onion soup completely lived up to the hype, it was exactly as it should be, thick with a chunk of bread submerged and covered in melted cheese. Literally heavenly and I can’t see myself ordering anything else from there in future.
Our mains arrived next and my linguine was piled high with mussels, clams, prawns and calamari. It was very good and had a bit of a spicy kick to it, without being overpowering. I’d tell you how the steak was if I could have tried it, but Viv wolfed it down before I got chance, so it must have been pretty good.
We washed it all down with a glass of rose, one of quite a few wines on the list that came as a glass as well as a bottle – perfect for if you’re pushed for time before the theatre but still fancy a drink.
We did have a bit of time left, so we rounded it all off with some ice cream and a coffee. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Cote, and so did Viv. She chose to go there for her birthday and has had excellent experiences on each visit.
It was the perfect restaurant for a pre show meal, without compromising on the quality if you’re short on time. The scope of the menus was so big that it really sets it apart from other pre theatre menus I’ve seen elsewhere. I love the little window booth seats for two, that offer a bit of privacy and I think it would also be a lovely date night.
The Royal Shakespeare Company live broadcast of Romeo & Juliet
From Cote we took the few minute walk to the Tyneside Cinema, where the live screening of Romeo & Juliet would be broadcast all the way from Stratford. Across the country other cinemas were joining in, bringing everyone into the live audience of the same show. It’s such a good idea really, if there’s a show you want to see but can’t make it all the way to London.
I know some of the bigger cinema chains often broadcast music concerts or big events, but for something like a theatre show the Tyneside cinema was so perfect, as it’s old fashioned appearance made it feel like you were in a theatre anyway. There was even a refreshment stand at the front by the stage, where we got gin and tonics and some sweets during the interval.
In the run up to the performance starting, the live presenter at the theatre was talking everyone through some of the behind the scenes elements, including interviews with the cast members, closer looks at the costumes, and the backstage staff. I realised pretty quickly on seeing the costumes (leather jackets, trainers, jeans?!) that this wasn’t going to be a classic portrayal of the play, and instead a much more modern take on it.
I have to admit I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it, but once it got started it actually didn’t matter at all that Romeo looked like he was chilling out in an All Saint ensemble, and the storyline itself was unchanged. The production really achieved it’s aim of highlighting how the themes and events in a 400 year old play is actually still so important and relevant today. The costumes suddenly made sense.
A few examples, include the fact that Mercucio, Romeo’s best mate was not only played by a woman, but is a woman in this version. The interview with the actress at the interval explained that back then women were always taught to be polite and silent, but in present day when this is no longer the case depicting a female Mercucio gives women an alternative female character to identify with.
I totally get this link, and think it’s really clever, however I did find her performance slightly over the top at times, and a bit annoying. She was very good, just perhaps could have been slightly less forced, but then I suppose that was the point of the Mercucio character so she played it well. (There was me thinking I’d never need that English Literature A level!)
The performances by Romeo, Juliet, the nurse and Lord Capulet were very good, completely faultless. The nurse was hysterical, which you might not really expect given the tragic nature of the story. The violence in the play held a strong resemblance to current youth knife crime, and of course the overarching story of young people in love, full of hope and being failed by those in power needs no further commentary in our current political climate…
I was pleasantly surprised by the whole performance, and it really did feel like being sat in a theatre as opposed to a cinema. It was a great location, and a great way to expand the London theatre experience further afield, without the cost and time it would take to get all the way to London.
Viv and I both really enjoyed the whole evening.
Disclaimer: Our meal at Cote Brasserie, and the tickets for the screening of Romeo & Juliet were both complimentary. All opinions are genuine and honest as always.