Romeo and Juliet
Leicester Square Theatre
Reviewed – 21st June 2018
“a fun, accessible and irreverent approach to Shakespeare”
I’m sure you know the story of Romeo and Juliet, two star crossed lovers whose story ends in tragedy. Well this is that, with a difference. Tonight’s show is set in “fair East London” and performed by five classically trained actors, one of whom’s sh!tfaced drunk. Our compere opens the show with some audience participation, including choosing someone in the front row to hold a large bucket, just in case.
Cleverly, we do not know which actor is going to be drunk, so the play’s opening begins as a guessing game, as the audience tries to identify who it’s going to be. It is made more obvious when a drunken Juliet stumbles onto stage, struggling through a pink and purple velvet curtain to make her entrance. Meet Juliet, as you have never seen her before: she drinks beer, cartwheels and definitely shouldn’t be given a knife. This is a fun, accessible and irreverent approach to Shakespeare.
A bit more of an emphasis on the actual Shakespearean text would’ve helped, something which seems to deteriorate over the course of the play. Juliet, played tonight by Beth-Louise Priestley, drunk as she is, seems to actually be getting more of her lines out than the rest of the cast. At moments, it feels like the sober actors are trying to match Juliet’s state and consequent performance. Playing these roles more genuinely would highlight the gap between the reverence usually used when discussing the works of Shakespeare and the irreverence of this addition to the play. It would also make Juliet’s drunkenness even funnier, by virtue of contrast.
I really like that the humour does not revolve solely around one actor’s inebriety, and some of the strongest moments are when characters find scope for humour in Shakespeare’s language, laced with innuendo. The production demonstrates much of this through the wonderful use of visual comedy, including moments that feel fantastically slapstick. This is where the humour for the other actors lies, it’s already in the Shakespearean text, and does not, therefore, need to be found in uncommitted overacting. This is a shortened version of the play, but the pace at points feels overly rushed, particularly in the second half, and again a more competent approach to the play itself would ensure that the drunken performance can shine in a strong framework of support.
Ultimately though, this is theatre and a night out in one, hilarious, clever and Shakespeare like you’ve never seen it before.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Al Overdrive
Romeo and Juliet
Leicester Square Theatre until 1st September
Previous Shit-faced production