Romeo and Juliet

Coming back to write about this one as i haven’t had time this year to keep up. This production is now at the Barbican and will go out on tour in the new year. Another collaboration with Erica Whyman looking at this play afresh examining the intergenerational conflict and the failure of the adults to create a world in which the young can be free of violence, instead it is a society in which knives are carried as badges of honour and hot headed violence inevitably leads to death. It is easy to concentrate on the deaths of the protagonists, yet the spiral of violence begins with the first street brawl that sets the tone for the piece, introduces the cool and calculating figure of Tybalt the first to flash his blade, despite the laws against it. It is Tybalt’s death, an accident as Romeo tries to prevent a fight with Mercutio , another character who sees honour in violence , that inevitably leads to the fatal misunderstandings and final carnage.

We wanted it to be very current and the epidemic of knife violence at the moment certainly makes it all too easy to draw a contemporary relevance. But Erica has also cast it with a deliberately young and very diverse cast. Scottish and Northern voices mix with Midlands and London accents, in each location on tour a group of local teenagers are added to the initial chorus and become witnesses and mourners at the deaths. 

I have created a deliberately brutal world of metal that echoes the hardness and glint of the blades. At its centre a cube that can revolve to give us abstract suggestions of place. So initially the feel of some warehouse the kids have broken in to in which there is a the very real threat of a rape(shakespeare’s language clearly defines a world in which women are pushed to the wall to have their maiden heads cut off !). Then the cool minimalism of the rich Capulet household, the friar’s cell, the raised ‘balcony’ and bedchamber and then the final resting plinth within the tomb. I have deliberately echoed the bedchamber with the tomb.

The role of the friar is problematic in a contemporary reading as to how to place religion in this world. I hope we have created a spiritual sense of the friar without rooting him within any one religion. When we go to the cell the walls of the set split open to reveal a giant living wall of green to give the sense of his connection to nature and his role within the play to be an attempted healer of division, a brief breath of air and the promise of hope which is crushed by a brutal world.

Directed by Erica Whyman. Designed by Tom Piper. Lighting by Charles Balfour. Mercutio played by Charlotte Josephine.

Directed by Erica Whyman. Designed by Tom Piper. Lighting by Charles Balfour.

the stage review

photos by Topher McGrillis

Directed by Erica Whyman. Designed by Tom Piper. Lighting by Charles Balfour.Movement by Ayse Tashkiran

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