Romeo & Juliet is a favourite for school examiners, and we see it re-appearing onto the curriculum at regular intervals. The Globe have joined with Deutsche Bank, who for the last 10 years have funded online resources for their youth engagement programme, to enhance their ‘Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank’ project. Each year 20,000 free tickets are given to schools for shows that have been specially created for students to introduce and nurture a greater understanding of Shakespeare and the performance of his plays. This exceedingly useful resource offers students a chance to come to the home of the Bard to experience the thrill of live performance. This experience undoubtedly helps the words to leapfrog from the page into their young minds, to help to visually marry up the literature aspect of the play, with the drama.
This particular adaptation of the play has been cut to 90 minutes; as any Shakespeare lover knows, the plays are not known for their short duration which can be off-putting to anyone new to his works, as they also grapple with the early modern English.
Directed by Michael Oakley, this energetic modern approach will suit the young audience. Packed full and taken at speed, this shortened version can feel like its on fast forward. When writing this play, Shakespeare added the pressure of time to Romeo (Nathan Welsh) and Juliet’s (Charlotte Beaumont) romance. The extremely quick romance moved from their meeting on a Sunday (when Romeo was apparently besotted with Rosaline), to their death on Thursday.
The very modern dress in this production will help to create a more contemporary feel and alleviates the feeling that Shakespeare is only to be enjoyed by the older middle classes.
There is a tightrope that is walked when producing one of the tragedies, the audience must be able to feel the emotional sense of loss, and I sometimes felt that in this adaptation, this was sacrificed for the comedy. The bursts of energy from the very well-choreographed dancing thanks to choreographer Paul Isles and the music played by the jazz musicians Hilary Belsey, Sarah Field and Richard Henry, added to the upbeat feel.
There were some spotlight moments when Mercutio (Ned Derrington) helped to frame Romeo’s character at the beginning of the play which gave us the comedic element that speech requires, keeping the iambic pentameter flowing, when at times, this tempo faltered a little in other parts of the play, and the rhythm of Shakespeare’s words was lost.
Romeo was well cast, Nathan Welsh did an excellent job of keeping the play young and fresh, whilst showing his expertise in his delivery.
All in all, this play works well for its purpose, in bringing Shakespeare to a young audience. There are times when it falls short of expectations, but if it brings a new generation to experience the Bard’s work, then it has been a success.
When watching the play, please remember that The Globe needs your help. Please consider donating to help this wonderful playhouse to continue being enjoyed by future generations. Go to https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/watch to watch and donate – available until February 2021.
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 28th September 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★