Benvolio played by Jonathan Livingstone
Romeo and Juliet (2017)
Written by: William Shakespeare
Jonathan trained at RADA.
Previous theatre includes: Now We Are Here (Young Vic); Our Country’s Good, Treasure Island (National Theatre); White Hot and Weak (Old Vic, New Voices Festival); Superior Donuts (Southwark Playhouse); The Taming of the Shrew (RSC); Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Cheek by Jowl); Pandora (Arcola Theatre); War Horse (National Theatre/West End); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Proprellor), and Ignition 2 (Royal Court).
Television includes: Chewing Gum and Holby City.
Jonathan Livingstone featured as part of the Adopt an Actor interview series for this production.
“I think the main stage is one of the hardest spaces I’ve played, because it demands that you commit fully. The moment you meet the stage it’s like a harmony; you harmonise with it, then everything becomes easier. You feel relaxed, you feel like you can move. It’s a meeting, you have to meet it every day. And some days you don’t, because that is the nature…”
As the cast take their final bows, Jon gives shares his advice and experience of performing in the ‘wooden O’.
“And that weird kind of character that I play, Balthazar, which is Benvolio playing another character...I think. I’m the one who delivers the news to Romeo that Juliet is dead. And it’s quite interesting because Daniel [Kramer, Director] and I had a very interesting conversation about whether Romeo should say 'Benvolio'. I thought it quite lent itself, because just having the same face but a different name, it means that he has people around him…”
Playing both Benvolio and Balthasar throughout the run, Jon talks characters, costumes and crows.
“In my dressing room, Ricky Champ and Keith Gilmore, we play a game called Chair Ball. It’s very elaborate and I won’t go into it! It’s like darts meets noughts and crosses. We have given it, we passed it over to Marc Antolin in the Twelfth Night cast, so ask…”
With the final week of performances underway, Jon takes us through a few of his favourite moments on stage and off stage.
"I share a dressing room with Ricky and Keith, and we just talk about the show, we still talk about our favourite lines in the show! We call the scene ‘Mad Daddy’ when he absolutely loses the plot: ‘God’s bread! It makes me mad!’ That moment really lays into me. It’s just the language I think, it’s just so eloquent, in a moment of anger."
As the show starts to find its rhythm onstage, Jonathan shares his favourite moments offstage...
"The play doesn’t make sense, the space doesn’t make sense until there’s an audience in it. For instance I have a line, ‘Make thee think thy swan a crow’, so after Tech Week I was playing that out to the audience and offending loads of people! Groundlings, you’re going to get it if you’re there!"
With performances underway, Jonathan takes us through Tech Week, developing the relationship between actor and audience, and building new dynamics during understudy runs.
"When there's violence happening, it's kind of offset by crazy, sexual energy happening! So, for instance, that first fight is really blood thirsty, but then these dancers appear and they're shaking it and it's very sensual."
Taking us through Daniel Kramer's vision for the show, Jonathan talks about age-blind casting, movement and music, and how 'These violent delights have violent ends'...
"If he didn't have the name Montague, he wouldn't be involved. I see him as a pacifist...I'm not quite sure where my Benvolio is going, but I know this is a good base: 'Peace-keeper, peace-keeper. Manage, manage, manage. Put out fires!'
Looking back on his initial impressions of Benvolio, Jonathan discusses how these have evolved in the rehearsal room, the relationships which are important to his character, and his place in the 'ancient grudge'.
"I think we'll try and get it down two hours. The show keeps driving and driving, which Daniel Kramer wants: it's like a whirlwind! The audience will want to breathe and we're not letting you do that, until we allow in the text or in the play or in the moves."
As rehearsals begin for Romeo and Juliet, Jonathan talks to us about his previous experience with Shakespeare, getting on stage for the first time, and the pacing of the show for audience and actor.