STAGE Romeo and Juliet

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - REVIEWS - WEST YORK­SHIRE PLAY­HOUSE SARAH FREE­MAN

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,

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