‘Old people behaving badly’ in Juliet and her Romeo

Juliet and her Romeo can be seen at The Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans

Juliet and her Romeo can be seen at The Abbey Theatre Studio in St Albans - Credit: The Abbey Theatret

Shakespeare’s tale of Romeo and Juliet is familiar to all. But what about Juliet and her Romeo?

Juliet and her Romeo opens at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans from Friday of next week.

Surely there must be a difference between lovers of 14 and 16, and those in their 70s and 80s?

Absolutely not. Love is love at any age, as the Company of Ten is about to prove with their production of Juliet and her Romeo from Friday, October 6.

This adaptation of William Shakespeare’s text by Sean O’Connor and Tom Morris turns the tale of the star-crossed lovers on its head.

This re-imagining of the play transforms the teenagers into elderly residents of the Verona Care Home, turning their warring parents into the staff and offspring caring for them.

Juliet lives in the private wing, Romeo in the NHS ward.

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When Juliet’s daughter, Ms Capulet, no longer wants to pay the exorbitant fees, she plots to marry Juliet off to the wealthy but senile Paris, thereby retaining her inheritance.

She is aided by the doctor who owns the care home, and who wants to keep his fee-paying residents.

Meanwhile Romeo has feelings for his nurse, Rosaline, until he catches sight of Juliet at a tea dance, and falls for her, hook line and sinker.

As in Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and Montagues still hate each other, long after the original conflict has ended.

Passions soon arise in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the care home, with the haves and have-nots closeted in the same building.

Margaret Metcalf, who plays Juliet, finds the erupting violence acted out by ageing men “disturbing in its virility, and strikingly dramatic”.

She describes the play as “old people behaving badly in Shakespeare’s glorious language.”

According to co-author, Tom Morris, who was artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic when this play was first performed there said: “In a youth obsessed culture, the thought of people falling in love as they edge towards death, is practically unthinkable.

“But why shouldn’t people who are 80 have the same life-transforming experience when they fall in love as does a teenager?

“Actually, when Romeo and Juliet are old, the play becomes gentle, considered and kind.”

Director Angela Stone has similar views.

She said: “Juliet and her Romeo, like Shakespeare’s original story, is about forbidden love, which is relevant at any age.

“The lovers are advanced in years, and in this version, their saga of life and death takes place over just five days.

“They rush to snatch moments of love, companionship and tenderness, against the wishes of those who are in charge of them.

“It is heartbreaking as we know that they are nearing the end of their natural lives.

“The clock is ticking for them in a way that it never was for Romeo and Juliet.”

This modern version of Romeo and Juliet runs at just over two hours, including the interval.

Performances take place in the Abbey Studio from Friday, October 6 to Saturday, October 7 at 8pm, on Sunday, October 8 at 2.30pm, and from Tuesday, October 10 to Saturday, October 14 at 8pm.

• To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.