Romeo and Juliet
A rose by any other body
This article is from 2007.
Having finally got over Baz Luhrmann’s version, it feels like we can move on to a new approach to this popular, if flawed, old Shakespearean standby. If Peter Meineck’s version for Aquila doesn’t quite make for a new ‘standard’, it certainly reinvigorates the play in a manner that allows for new perspectives on a text that’s done some hard labour over the centuries.
The trick to this one, though it’s not a mere gimmick, is that the actors move among the audience at the opening of the show, requesting that they draw lots to establish which performer plays which role. Thus, on the afternoon I saw the piece, Tony Cochrane, a stout, middle aged man, played Juliet. Of course, the temptation to ‘camp’ the part when actors play across gender is strong, and a little of this went on. But less than you’d think. Indeed, in altering the expectations we’d normally impose upon a human body when we think of, say, Paris or Romeo, we find different ways of viewing the text.
As it is, the piece, after a certain amount of nervous giggling from the audience for the first 20 minutes, proved a study of emotional misunderstanding, confusion and obsession. All of these elements are in any Romeo and Juliet, but in relocating the age and gender of characters, there’s much we realise about love. That we might associate adolescent displays of emotion with a teenage girl is one thing – but this production alerts us to the fact that a middle aged man is just as capable of such feelings. There are also some surprising lights thrown upon Old Capulet (a woman in her 30s) and a rather sensual and saturnine Mercutio (from a girl you might normally expect to play Juliet). The piece is more fascinating than emotionally compelling, but more than worth its admission fee.
Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 27 Aug (not 20), 2.15pm, £13.50–£14.50 (£12.50–£13.50).