In fair Verona we set our scene… again

The infamous Shakespearean tragedy takes to the stage once again with an updated setting…. Again.

If you ask anyone to name a Shakespeare play, they would no doubt say ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and you could say it was Shakespeare’s most famous play. Maybe but then again maybe not.

The iconic playwright wrote more than 100 plays, yet there is something about Romeo and Juliet that seems to attract audiences every night.

Maybe it’s the romance? Maybe the tragedy? Or maybe because it is so well-known, nothing will surprise the spectators.

The story of Romeo and Juliet is one that has been done time after time after time and it must be difficult to try to add something new to the production that will keep an audience engaged with the production, yet this adaptation managed to successfully do that.

The production consisted of one roundabout which was transformed into various sets throughout including Juliet’s balcony and the coffin scene.

The constant and changing set design was complimented by the use of contemporary music playing which, along with the contemporary clothing, reinforced the modern day setting.

When the play began with the ‘do you bite your thumb at me, sir?’ scene I was immediately thrust back to my secondary school days.

Like most people my age, and younger and even older, would more likely than not have studied the Shakespearean tragedy at some point in their life and as the scenes unfold, I began reminiscing.

Everyone’s favourite character at school was Mercutio and it seemed that he had the same effect throughout this production.

Oliver Hoare starred as the Prince’s kinsman who brutally falls with the words ‘a plague on both your houses’ that sent shivers through my spine.

One thing that really should be stated when reviewing this production is how young cast were. Everyone, minus a few characters, didn’t seem to be any older than 30 and their performances were truly outstanding.

If I could ever learn the lines of a Shakespeare play with the language of the time I would be pleased with myself and the actors should. To keep in character and to remember the archaic language was an achievement in itself.

One criticism that I couldn’t help but feel was the portrayal of Romeo. From understanding this character, he is the naïve, sensitive type and Paapa Essiedu did that without a doubt yet there was something slightly melodramatic about his performance.

It is understandable why he landed the leading role and despite my personal preference towards the melodramatic adaptation, it did go down well with the rest of the audience who erupted with laughter at his constant giggling.

Something that Romeo and the rest of the cast did was interact with the audience directly but even apologising to an audience member after a line from the production. This added something different to the show and created a different layer to the show.

By breaking the fourth wall, it kept the audience engaged and focused on what was happening on the stage.

One scene in particular that stuck out was the finale. With Juliet’s coffin in the middle of the set with a white blanket over the top with two bright lights on the edge of the stage.

This created a very uneasy and eerie setting and allowed the scene to develop in a way that even Shakespeare would be proud to see.

The show will performed until June 13 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. It is due to then tour to the Derby Theatre and then Salisbury Playhouse where it finishes.

Despite the success of the show, I feel some time away from this iconic play will do the timeless classic some good. This is not just aimed at the theatre but schools should take this critique on board.


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