Photo credit Marc Brenner
Walking into the wooded stands of The Shakespeare’s Globe, aside from a little extra spacing and the lack of a standing audience, it was almost as if nothing had changed. The Globe’s new version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet had clearly taken the lessons from the last year, in an attempt to provide something new, as the revised script allowed for a heightened focus on mental health.
This contemporary exploration of Romeo and Juliet saw Romeo riding around the stage on his BMX, Mercutio puffing on a vape and party scenes soundtracked by Mike Skinner’s ‘Who’s got the bag?’. This helped the play’s relatability, but also successfully divided the Montagues and Capulets by class and character. The fight scenes took on a new significance as they stabbed one another in their tracksuits, the audience were reminded of the rise in London knife crime amongst teenage boys. The red and black costume colour theme brought a cohesiveness to the costume design, as Juliet often wore an oversized red hoodie with tartan pocket and matching hair band, while Romeo wore an all black tracksuit with small details of red. The most unique aspect of the show came from the interjecting statistics around mental health and race, which after the last year of lockdowns and #BLM felt especially poignant. The show closed with details for the Samaritans, displayed in red on the stage screen.
The stand out performance from the show came from Alfred Enoch, who played Romeo, as he successfully performed the Shakespearean language in a way that was believable and relatable as well as achieving a compelling emotional performance. The downsides of the show came mostly from the draw backs of the staging – occasionally speech is lot in the open space and unless you are lucky enough to be face on, you are probably going to miss some of the action. The set and prop design was basic, but these are all things we sign up for in the name of tradition and therefore, I don’t think can fairly be criticised. I found that despite excellent performance’s from both, the speeches from Adam Gillen (Mercutio) and Zoe West (Benvolio) often lacked the same clarity as Enoch’s and huge chunks of script were lost. On the whole I have very little complain about the show, apart from the fact that I think they could’ve pushed the contemporary adaptation further, maybe to include social media or a discussion of race, to give us something more revolutionary.
I found this version of Romeo and Juliet poignant progressive and fun, with strong performances and witty staging choices.