Review: Romeo and Juliet
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE is far from impressed by this rewrite of one of his most famous plays.
I’m not quite sure what I watched but it definitely wasn’t the play I wrote. The fact that a writer that isn’t me is listed amongst the production team is testimony to this.
This production is as close to Romeo and Juliet as 2011’s Gnomeo & Juliet, except instead of adorable gnomes you’ve got drug dealers. Here, Romeo is a woman, the Friar is the biggest dealer in town, and the Arctic Monkey’s prophecy – ‘ain’t no love, no Montagues or Capulets’ – has come true: the warring families have been done away with.
Most of the lines spoken were my original ones, except with the excessive use of anachronistic swear words. Unfortunately, many of the best bits were cut out: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet”? Gone. “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?”? Nope.
Those lines that were kept were often delivered poorly, both rushed and lacking the rhythm that I intended. Rosa Robson as Romeo gave by far the strongest performance, outshining Claudia Grigg-Edo’s meek Juliet.
The costumes and set, although very far from the originals, were clearly well thought out, transforming the limited space into a section of English suburbia far removed from fair Verona.
Some of the adaptation, although hard to admit, was actually very clever. The opening scene with biting thumbs becomes a drug deal; Romeo is forced to flee after another deal goes sour. The friar, with his fascination with plants and their effects, makes a surprisingly good dealer, with
However, the production requires a prerequisite knowledge of my original in order to understand the subversions. Without knowing the play relatively well – thankfully, no problem for me – the action would seem strange and often nonsensical. The star-crossed lovers are here just in a standard relationship, making the dramatic conclusion illogical.
This isn’t Romeo and Juliet as you know it. But that doesn’t make it awful. The production needs a lot more work: the actors need to consider their lines more and the script could do with another edit (or two). The pacing is changed hugely and requires a bit of slowing down to comprehend the multitude of changes.
Sometimes, I found myself sat there waiting for the end. Mercifully, with the amount of cutting they’ve done, the final effort lasted just over an hour.
Is it worth seeing? Yes, probably: this is a really very interesting show. But to call it ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and put it under my name might be too far.