One man, a guitar, and the most venerated love story of all time.
Combination indie concert, poetry slam and immersive trance experience.
You’d be forgiven for having a high school flashback after being handed a programme containing lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, but Rob McGlade’s performance is in no way traditional. With his production of Romeo & Juliet: One-Man Musical, McGlade exhibits a deep empathy with the characters and a 21st century understanding of the text.
Combination indie concert, poetry slam and immersive trance experience, McGlade's show demonstrates a passion and respect for the written word by barely altering Shakespeare’s original prose. Beyond a few repetitions, true fans will recognise each line in its new format. It’s not what one would expect of a musical—perhaps The Music of Romeo & Juliet would be more suitable—but as a performance it is completely unique.
He sings and speaks Shakespeare’s words as though he was born with the bard’s tongue, taking iambic pentameter in his stride. His interpretation of the vows taken by Romeo and Juliet is eye-opening for those of us who have ever struggled with English literature—we can finally appreciate the romance of the scene.
The music is eerie. At times dark and sombre, getting more intense during character conflicts and impossibly gentle for Juliet’s monologues, but always with a hint of foreboding—much like the play itself. The songs flow from one scene to the next, often without pause, making it easy to lose your place in the story unless you follow along with the programme. But if you do that you might miss out on McGlade’s captivating stage performance. A tricky balance.
While the show might not help the average person understand the language better, it does a lot to impress upon us the emotion of the story. But really, this show isn’t for us. It feels more like McGrady saw something in Romeo & Juliet that most of us missed, followed his inspiration through to the inevitable musical conclusion, and then happened to wander into a Fringe space.
In a world where the education system turns great works of literature into mathematical equations—relevant quote + plot diagnosis = A+ essay answer—McGlade seems like the guy who skipped class, discovered Romeo & Juliet on his own and wound up understanding it much better than the rest of us.