Friday 24 November 2017

Review: Romeo and Juliet

Gate Theatre > CHRIS WASSER

Lauren Coe and Fra Fee play the star-crossed lovers in the Gate's trendy Romeo and Juliet reboot
Lauren Coe and Fra Fee play the star-crossed lovers in the Gate's trendy Romeo and Juliet reboot

The original star-crossed lovers have been given a makeover. Romeo, with his tousled locks, skinny jeans and boyishly-handsome good looks, could pass for a member of One Direction. At one point, our brand new Juliet dons a Minnie Mouse T-shirt. How very modern.

Indeed, director Wayne Jordan is the man who reinvented Twelfth Night for the Abbey stage and here, at the Gate, he's at it again with the hipster Shakespeare shtick. The difference is, everyone's favourite Junior Cert tragedy is a better fit.

In fact, Romeo and Juliet, with all of its youthful vigour and reckless abandon, is a very difficult piece to get wrong. The definitive tale of doomed romance is easily the best and most accessible piece Shakespeare ever produced. It transcends time. It could work with pop music and tracksuits; you could set it inside a large garden shed - you could even throw in a few 21st century jokes wherever pleases. Jordan has ticked all of these boxes and more and, thanks to some wonderful casting, decoration and choreography, R&J: The Trendy Reboot, plays out rather beautifully. And yes, that Dire Straits tune is in there.


You know the drill. R&J's families are at war in Verona, the streets are littered with rival gangs and a double murder is going to completely wreck our new-found lovers' buzz. That balcony scene, though - now that is how you do romance on and, indeed, off the stage. Young Fra Fee is an absolute firecracker of a Romeo, his beguiling co-star, Lauren Coe, a truly breath-taking Juliet.

The tragedy bit, as we know, comes in the second half, when everything playful and funny about this shiny re-imagining is replaced with darkness and betrayal.

As for that famous death scene - jeez, it's still a shocker, lads. A gorgeous and compelling mixture of the new and the old, this is exactly how Shakespeare's finest work should look and sound in 2015.

Running until May 16 HHHHI

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