Teens bring Romeo + Juliet into 21st century

Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet - Credit: Archant

Making Shakespeare appeal to teenagers is no easy task - but co-directors Philip Reardon and Ian Jordan seem to have found a way as the Company of Teens production of Romeo + Juliet demonstrated last week.

There could have been any number of reasons - setting the play in modern times complete with mobile phones, text messages projected on screen behind the actors or the large amount of collaboration between the directors and cast.

Whatever triggered off such a positive response to what is one of Shakespeare’s more misogynistic plays, it worked as the youth group of the Company of Ten threw themselves wholeheartedly into the production.

Even though the archaic Shakespearean language conflicted on occasions with the modernity of the production, it was clear that the young cast related to what Ian described in the programme notes as the ‘instant gratification’ of a play where the rush to have everything ends in tragedy.

And it was also clear that they had absorbed the nuances of Shakespeare’s prose however remote it might appear from modern life.

Katie Walton as Juliet and Duncan Kennedy as Romeo made a beguiling couple with Katie particularly strong in a role which must have seemed about as far removed from the normal life of teenagers today as it is possible to be.

Their ‘love at first sight’ was totally believable while their rush to marry served to emphasise the dangers of trying to have everything immediately.

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Daria Abaza who took the role of Juliet’s Nurse is one to watch, projecting her voice impressively and dominating the stage when she appeared, Natasha O’Donnell as a female Tybalt and Jack Pannaman as Mercutio were confident in their roles and Ben Winter’s bibulous Capulet brought a welcome touch of humour to the play.

Romeo + Juliet was acted out on a very sparse set at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans but that was part of its appeal as well as demonstrating how just a few blocks on stage can work just as well as more complex scenery.

The production ran for only two nights but both performances were greeted with enthusiasm by the audiences - and the Company of Teens well deserved it.