We all know how the story goes, a young boy and a young girl fall in love defying their feuding families. Their tragic tale is played out on the streets of Verona. Whilst Shakespeare filled many people with dread at school, I fell in love with the play and the Baz Luhrmann movie, so I was rather excited to see Romeo and Juliet at the Theatre Royal Norwich. It’s the infamous play, performed by The Watermill Theatre but not as we know it…
The cast performed acoustic chart music as the audience took their seats. It was a lovely surprise. Some were singing, some dancing and others playing the guitar, it was all done with passion. I’d only be in there for a few minutes and I was already wowed by their talent. The set resembled a trendy New York bar, with exposed brick walls, scaffolding and neon signs. It felt like we had wandered into one too. It set a fun and relaxed tone for the evening, giving a hint of what was to come.
The performance was clever, it was Shakespeare but not as we know it. There was a nod to tradition through the language used and the story itself, but everything else came from the modern world. It was kind of play that Shakespeare would have written if he were alive today and living in a loft in Brooklyn. This fusing of tradition and modernity really worked. It was captivating and felt it was meant to be performed in that way. There was a sprinkling of British humour here and there too. I know Romeo and Juliet is supposed to be a tragedy, but the laughter really lifted the performance. The nurse played by Lauryn Bedding was absolutely hilarious, she reminded me a little of Sarah Millican, I found myself waiting in anticipation for her next line. Her character was the perfect balance to the brooding naivety of the young lovers.
Aside from the captivating portrayal of the story, the music really stood out. Mumford and Sons esq acoustic songs were intertwined seamlessly into the performance. Not in a cheesy musical kind of way, it was like it was meant to be. The casts musical talents really stood out, you could be mistaken for thinking that you were actually at a gig. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they sounded like professional musician, not actors singing. They could certainly wipe the floor clean with any musical offerings found on popular TV shows these days. The actors also played all of the instruments – guitars, banjos, drums and more, with complete ease. I was in awe of their talents for the whole performance.
The Watermill’s performance of Romeo and Juliet at The Theatre Royal Norwich was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Granted you could draw parallels to the Baz Luhrmann movie, if you loved that you’d certainly love this! As would open-minded Shakespeare fans. I’d even go as far as to say that if the word Shakespeare fills you with dreadful school memories, this performance would change your mind. Shakespeare will never stop being relevant, but the Watermill theatre’s production has dragged it kicking and screaming into the modern world giving it a new lease of life.
Photo’s by Scott Rylander.