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Posted by : RodDungate on May 04, 2017 - 10:48 AM London
London
ROMEO AND JULIET
By William Shakespeare
adapted by Joe M Mackenzie.
3Stars ***

The Union Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, London SE1 0LR to 20 May 2017.

Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7261 9876
www.uniontheatre.biz
Review: William Russell 3 May.

Star crossed lovers on the football pitch

Directors do like a concept and in this instance Andy Bewley has had rather a good idea - in Verona there will be two rival football teams, the Capulets and the Montagues. So far so good. Then he has decided that gay footballers – coming out being not uncommon nowadays – to make Romeo and Juliet gay. It works well enough within the context of the play, but he has not carried it through sufficiently. To start with keeping the name Juliet simply sounds daft. Boys might be called that by other boys, but this Juliet is not known to his parents as being gay and they are busily trying to marry him off to a dolly bird called Paris. Call him Jules or Giulio, but not Juliet. It sounds plain wrong. The same goes for the Nurse. Had she been his personal trainer and looked older than Juliet it could have made sense, but for a teenage lad who likes sports to have a nurse is simply not on. The result is you get a reality jolt at regular intervals which is bad for the play.

In other words, the drawing board was fine, but he and his adaptor should have stayed longer at it. However, as the lovers Sam Perry (Juliet) and Abram Rooney (Romeo) rise to the demands of the roles. Rooneyis a nicely butch, hot headed, none to bright Romeo while Perry makes a slightly gangling, sweet Juliet absolutely thrilled at having acquired this lovely hunk for his own. They sustain the evening, helped by a nicely camp and very lanky Mercutio – a fashion plate in a skinny suit and no socks – from Jack J Farley and a menacing football hooligan of a Tybalt from Sam Wilson.

Things proceed at a decent lick and if the gimmick or concept – you makes your choice - is not worked out fully it does not go against the grain of the story which is about teenage passions. There are no swords, the warring factions meet on the football pitch, lots of balls get dribbled, and Tybalt kicks Mercutio to death.

In the early stages – I saw it at the first performance – there was a tendency to gabble the verse, but as the play proceeded and confidence grew the evening took wings. There is nothing to frighten Aunt Edna – a few kisses apart the boys do not do anything extreme – nor should it upset purists who like their Shakespeare in doublet and hose. The gay footballer scene is as reasonable a world as say that of the Puerto Rican gangs in West Side Story in which to set the story. Some scenes have been cut, Paris does not die, the Montague parents are nowhere to be seen, there is quite a lot of doubling of roles, but nothing to hinder the play from working as it should work.

Juliet: Sam Perry.
Romeo: Abram Rooney.
Tybalt: Sam Wilson.
Friar Laurence: Henri Merriam.
Nurse: Gabrielle Nellis-Pain.
Benvolio: Celeste de Veazey.
Mercutio: Jack J Farley.
Gregory: Katie Beudert.
Prince: Kate Hardisty.
Paris: Allegra Marland.
Sampson: Anthony Fagan.
Lady Capulet: Sarah Barron.
Capulet: Steven Rodgers.

Director: Andy Bewley.
Dramaturg & Adaptor: Joe M Mackenzie.
Movement Director: Amy Warren,
Composer: Laurence Morgan.
Costume Designer: Jenny Anderton.
Lighting Designer: Sean Gleason.
 
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