STAGE Romeo and Juliet
There is no doubt that Amy Leach is a talented theatre director. She’s shown it previously at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with Little Sure Shot and Kes and she shows it here too with Romeo and Juliet.
Choosing to stage Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy was a brave move. Choosing to cast the action against contemporary gang culture even braver. It’s been done a thousand times before and not always successfully. Leach avoids the most obvious pitfall of appearing to shoehorn the play into a modern setting for the sake of it and does for the most part create a complete new world, one with boxing gyms, gritty wastelands and just a little bling.
It’s a production which is at its most successful during the first half, which also includes a space fancy dress party at the Capulets. Why? Who cares? It works. The cracks, however, begin to appear post interval. While the first half packs in pretty much a gag a minute – mostly thanks to Susan Cookson’s innuendo-loving Nurse – it sits oddly against the resulting tragedy.
Romeo and Juliet, so beautifully played by Dan Parr and Tessa Parr as self-obsessed teenagers in the first half, end up both two-dimensional and unconvincing as they attempt to scale the steep trajectory between dancing next to a giant alien and, well, death. There are other problems too. As the proud owner of many flat vowels I am all for regional accents in Shakespeare, but can’t help but feel that Brummie doesn’t serve Benvolio’s most heartfelt speeches well. Leach clearly wanted this to be a story for our post-Brexit times and there are glimpses of what could have been. Jack Lord is a commanding presence as Lord Capulet, a tattooed boxing promoter with a trophy wife. Unfortunately,