The Globe Theatre presents a contemporary version of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, made specifically for young people to engage in the theatre.
The Globe Theatre’s 2019 production of Romeo and Juliet is a delightfully enjoyable and concise version of Shakespeare’s original. While it may fail to deliver on some of the more emotional sides of the play, it still provides excellent comic moments.
Director Michael Oakley succeeds in creating a show that is engaging for young audiences as part of the Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank programme, in particular through his direction of humour and speech. Ned Derrington plays an excellent Mercutio, who plays up the bawdy jokes to the audience by cleverly using drumsticks as a prop. The jokes are played well by all, and land right where Shakespeare would have wanted them to.
Additionally, the costumes are chosen well in a contemporary and timeless style. The Montague’s are dressed in more restrained colours to represent their ideals, while the Capulets are in bright, flashy clothes in gold and silver. This is ideal for a performance designed for young people – it makes the characters and their conflicting personalities easier to spot, as well as keeping the costuming relevant to the 21st century.
Although Romeo and Juliet is not a particularly hard play to follow, this version is especially simple due to it’s shorter 90-minute run. The actors do a good job of embodying each character and make it easy to see each of their motivations. However, sometimes the more emotional and tragic sides of the story are underplayed. For example, when Romeo is told of Juliet’s supposed death for the first time, actor Nathan Welsh simply gasps with his hands over his mouth and proceeds swiftly to make decisions of what to do next. Hence, the line “I defy you, stars!”, which would usually be one of the most emotionally charged lines for Romeo, is somewhat underwhelming and doesn’t deliver the same response.
The play also engages with young people in surprising ways – it’s not often that you would expect to see Romeo and Juliet’s tragic ending be followed by a happy dance routine, but that is what happens in this version. Modern dance is used during the party scenes as the two lovers are introduced to each other, as well as after the epilogue, where the cast dances together as if Juliet doesn’t still have a huge bloodstain on her chest.
Altogether, the play is funny, dramatic, and enjoyable to watch. The casting is good, and each choice of direction is made to engage young people in Shakespeare’s theatre.
The play is available to watch for free on the Globe Youtube channel until February 2021: