April 15, 2019, by Sunita Tailor
Romeo and Juliet at The Theatre Royal
This blog was written by final year English student, Jade Braham.
The Theatre Royal hosted the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent adaptation of William Shakespeare’s timeless love story Romeo and Juliet. Despite being more than 400 years since Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, Director Erica Whyman has managed to transform this classic into a fresh and engaging play about our world today.
It is hard to imagine from the contemporary stage design that the play is set in fair Verona. Tom Piper’s bare stage sported only one immense, rotating metallic cube that opened up on two sides, aligning itself perfectly with the edgy and contemporary focus on the 21st century youth culture and knife crime. This versatile structure became the rock that held the performance together – acting as various locations – its imposing and solid presence became a warning nothing happy could come of these events.
Alongside the set, the modern street clothing connects the play to knife crime. In the opening scenes the stage is full to the brim with young actors ranging from the ages of early teens to mid-20s and all of whom seem to be dressed in black leggings, jeans, black leather jackets and hoodies and carrying knives. Whilst this costume choice was rather simplistic, it worked because it made these characters relatable and fully fleshed out.
The techno music of the first act continuously ushered in these young adults and made the Capulets’ party feel more like a 21st century night club but then there was a change to more ominous and lyrical music in the second half of the show, highlighting Sound Designer, Ayse Tashkiran’s attention to detail as it mirrored the psychological and emotional changes in the young lovers which climaxed in the death scene.
Special mention must go to Charlotte Josephine who took on the role of Mercutio and made it her own. She reinvents Mercutio into a tough, crop-haired female who is feisty and always ready for a fight. When Tybalt dismisses and ‘shh’ her because of her gender the disapproval and frustration visible from both Mercutio and female members of the audience suggested that all were ready to take on and prove their strength and bravery to and against this egocentric and condescending male.
From the set, music, costume, to the inclusion of young people from schools around the country, this show now ranks first on my list of previously seen Romeo and Juliet performances. It truly deserved the loud applause and cheers from the audience!