Juliet & Romeo

Both humourous and sad, Juliet and Romeo by Lost Dog company, presented by The Place, written with sensitive forensic analysis and directed by Ben Duke, is a subversion of Shakespeare. In this version the couple do not die and, now in their forties with a child, are struggling with their marriage. At first with the house lights on, we are invited to watch them relive in a counselling session the memorable moments of their relationship and find out why their love died. This is expressed through dialogue, movement, dance, excerpts of Shakespeare’s text, music and popular love songs.

(The) contrast between humour and overwhelming love are the strong points of the show.

Sitting on mauve chairs, a pot plant on the table, Ben Duke's Romeo and Solène Weinachter's Juliet share early memories which turn out to be different (reminding one of Maurice Chevalier’s I Remember It Well). "It was summer," says Romeo. "October," corrects Juliet. This wry sense of humour is alternated with beautiful dance, memorably a sequence danced to the most famous excerpt of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Weinachter's long hair adds to the physicality as Duke throws her about and they dance with superb strength and sensuousness. They enact the stages of their romance: the ecstatic first glance across a crowded room to Shakespeare’s death scene in the chapel vaults. The playwright is described as a visitor who arrives with a bottle of whisky. Romeo can’t remember much of the conversation but confesses he "overshared".

What really happened in the vaults is enacted several times as they try to recreate the true version, increasingly hilarious as Juliet tries to lug the ‘dead’ Romeo about. Again, each of them has a unique version, rather different to Shakespeare’s. Running off together, their first moment at their flat is movingly dramatised as a moment of stillness, enacted to Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence. The couple then go berserk, literally climbing the walls (actually possible as they are made of wire netting) and knocking over the furniture, turning somersaults in joy. This contrast between humour and overwhelming love are the strong points of the show and the superb dancing cannot be faulted.

Unfortunately, it is at this point in the show that Ben Duke, as the playwright, loses his sensitive touch. Juliet gets pregnant, the ultrasound shows she has lost the baby but the couple get over this appalling experience (we imagine a miscarriage since Romeo notices something flowing down her leg) rather too quickly, dancing to jolly music. However, despite this blip there is a moving moment when Romeo holds Sophie, the new-born ‘crinkled-faced’ baby who survives and he quotes Shakespeare: "I ne’er did love till now."

The couple’s life begins to unravel. The long hours of separation with Romeo away at work and Juliet stuck with a toddler take their inevitable toll. This is movingly portrayed but unfortunately goes on far too long and loses some of its pathos.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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Performances

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The Blurb

With Lost Dog’s blend of dance, theatre and comedy, this duet reveals the real story of Romeo and Juliet. It turns out they didn’t die in a tragic misunderstanding, they grew up and lived happily ever after. Well, they lived at least. Now they are 40ish. They feel constantly mocked by their teenage selves and haunted by the pressures of being the poster couple for romantic love. Directed by award-winning Ben Duke, Juliet & Romeo tackles our cultural obsession with youth and our inevitable issues with longevity. Part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2019. **** (Guardian).

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