It is a pleasure to see enthusiastic young talent on display.
The period is established with costumes in black, white and shades of grey with some male leads looking particularly cool in jackets and ties. There are some cleverly and occasionally wittily chosen songs to cover scene changes including Anyone Who Had A Heart and Be-Bop-A-Lula. Streets fights are effectively staged and the disco scenes are as energetic, as you might expect from this young cast. Both work particularly well staged in the round.
But some of the stated intentions of this production fall short. The idea that it has 'all adult characters written out' simply cannot be the case. True, the lovers are teenagers, but the play still contains the adult roles demanded by the text, even if they are played by young people. The aim to focus on the play as 'an adolescent struggle for identity' not only stretches its original intentions, it leaves the production with insufficient material to bring such a theme to the fore. Neither do we get the impression that the world 'seems to feel like it’s falling apart' just because of local disputes and a struggling love affair.
It is absolutely true that the play is 'heavily cut', and the extent of that cutting is part of the production’s problem. There is really not enough of the text for the intensity of the plot to develop and for the characters to reach the depths of their identity, given that the story is so well known and affords no surprises.
The cast is energetic and clearly committed. Maxim Uys’s slightly husky voice, good looks and slick outfit make for a seductive Romeo and it is clear to see why Ruth Louis’s Juliet would fall for him. She conveys vulnerability and impetuosity but is less well equipped in delivering the fullness of the text. Both are well supported by the rest of the cast and in particular Marko Andrejevic as Mercutio and Joe Hilton as Benvolio. Leia Jalali is a suitable Friar and Bruce Allison confidently comperes the performance. Sam Coad carves a niche for himself as the slimiest, creepiest Paris imaginable, leaving us in no doubt as to why Juliet would have nothing to do with him.
Ultimately, this adaptation lacks the transformation achieved by Baz Luhrmann in the film with Leonardo DiCaprio to make it radically exciting and misses the potency and depth of Shakespeare’s original. It is still enjoyable and as always it is a pleasure to see enthusiastic young talent on display.