Romeo/Juliet

Rarely has there been a version of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. With dance and modern music Romeo/Juliet proves that Shakespeare can be updated and adapted until kingdom come. Yet I regret to say that this interpretation requires a serious rethink.

As the title suggests the story has been slashed to just one hour and centres almost wholly on the conversations between the lovers. This is a good idea and doesn't strip any potential for the story to be told adequately. To refresh you, Romeo and Juliet fall for each other amid constant fighting between their respective households who are too blinded by irrational hatred for each other that they fail to see what's really important in life: Love. Unfortunately, Royal Family Productions incur similar criticism as they fail to realise that the most valued thing by any modern audience when watching the Bard's work is clarity, of which there is barely any in this production.Last time I checked, Romeo was a boy and Juliet was a girl. In principle I have no problem with a gender swap if it works and if there is a valid reason, but I really didn't get why it was done here. Once I'd worked out what was going on the story was ruined because the love was laboured and lost: there was no chemistry, no reason for them to be in love at all. Romeo is prepared to die for Julie, but why he (or was it she) would want to do this, I'm unsure, as Juliet was reduced to a sulky teenager intent on moping around. There was one moment where Romeo displayed a dash of passion but other than that the whole relationship was limp.

The dancing lacked the vigour, accuracy and strength required to achieve the powerful impression that the company was going for. Often dances were bland, misleading and when the cast ran out of ideas they dramatically left the stage only to return again a second later, making their exit irrelevant.

The cast need to speak louder, especially if they insist on having music playing atop most scenes. Shakespearean tongue is hard enough to grasp without Hoppípolla booming from the speakers and without diction and volume the audience stand to miss a great deal when the minor characters do get a chance to speak. Indeed, I struggled to work out who was who. Paris was obvious because he's kind of a big deal, but the Capulets and Montagues became one big blur. There was an attempt to use blue and red paint to distinguish between the two sides but even this didn't help much.

Paint seemed to be crucial to this production with all the characters depicted as avid finger-painters, as they continually added blue or red marks to a back drop which hung from the ceiling. I believe this was meant to represent the conflict between the two sides but there was no particular time when this gimmick was employed and so the meaning was very watered down.Fundamental to its failure is that the cast fail to build any rapport with the audience which results in us not caring an inch for the characters. Their message may well have been profound but the lack of clarity meant that no one else got it.

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The Blurb

Shakespeare's universal love story, adapted and infused with modern life. Unique physical retelling of this classic tale, combining interpretive movement and original music. Royal Family Productions have successfully graced Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway since 2007. www.royalfamilyproductions.org

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