‘Deny thy father and refuse thy name …

… And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.’ Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play: whether it be the Leonardo De Caprio version or the battered play-text from your school days. And the new production currently hitting the Sherman main house is full of the same star-crossed lovers, family feuds and tragedy… But grittier and bolder than before under the direction of new Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan.

Having never seen a stage adaptation of Romeo and Juliet previously, it was a clean slate for me as an audience member.  With accents a plenty from Glaswegian to Valleys to Jamaican, the cast brought to life the tragedy with a fresh perspective whilst remaining true to the original Shakespearean language.  Although the dialect got lost at times, the brilliantly stylised fight scenes between the two families, directed by Kevin McCurdy, were cleverly effective without being overly brutal.  With comedic moments from the hot-pink tracksuit wearing Nurse (Anita Reynolds), a fatherly kindness from the Friar (Sean O’Callaghan), and a brilliant portrayal of Mercutio from Scott Reid, the key characters each brought something new to the scene: although I felt I could have gained a stronger connection/empathy for the two young lovers.

The grey scale stone wall backdrop brings to life Verona, but not as we know it.  Littered with bicycles, hooded youths and cans of Stella, the team have kept the piece timeless with no set decade of narrative, including their younger, new audience members with blasting contemporary music as more and more of the set is revealed.  An incredibly designed stage with dark alleyways and an orchestra pit disguised as a candle lit tomb, incorporating the traditional balcony scene to brilliant effect – massive kudos to the production team!

A bold and striking production from the first light switch and the opening lines, emphasised by a brilliant design choices and strong performances.  It was fantastic to see such an evolved piece of Shakespeare take over the Sherman stage!

Romeo and Juliet plays at the Sherman Theatre until the 18th October – tickets available online here or from the box office on 02920 646900. 

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