Romeo and Juliet. Three stars. ***
thespace@Niddry Street. Venue 9
August 3rd to 18th. (not 5. 12) 15.20
Curious Pheasant Theatre Company (founded by Becky Mills and Daniel Harris) have produced this very original and unusual version of the Shakespeare classic. Not as you will have encountered it in the classroom – though if you were encouraged to get into rugby strip to act out scenes in school that may well have been very good for your education!
Yes, that’s right. The (almost) all male cast here – Benvolio being the one girl – are every one of them in rugby strip. This has one immediate advantage as every one has their name on the back of the shirt, so there is no spending the first five minutes thinking – now what was the funny name of that one? Being all male means the love interest will be between men. It is made clear that Juliet is a man and there is talk of a woman Paris that his father wants him to marry. Definitely medieaval Italian gay love! The things those Italians got up to!
There is some action with the rugby ball to liven things up, and there is clear fascination between Romeo and his forbidden boyfriend. They repeatedly come close and you think – will they ever snog? Fear not, they will. It is always good to keep the audience wondering, though even at this time of the afternoon in these times I think the physical love could have been taken further. We all know what is happening.
There is no Prince in this show and no Friar so there were times when you wonder – how are they going to push the plot along? But they do, quite ingeniously. However, the final section, especially the updated form of death implied for Juliet, seemed to me the least satisfactory aspect of the production.
Yet a great deal is crammed into 45 minutes, and it is a very enjoyable and different show. This is a very diverting tea time entertainment.