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Shakespeare’s R&J

Shakespeare's R&J at the Tabard Theatre Shakespeare's R&J at the Tabard Theatre
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In a public school, the boys are taught gender politics by rote in a disciplinarian regime. By night, they turn to the pages of Romeo and Juliet for excitement and begin to question the status quo as they experience the passion and violence of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. Through Joe Calarco’s piece four schoolboys play all the characters: what begins as a piece of horseplay ends up as a rights-of-passage drama.

The author might play fast and loose with Shakespeare’s text but it works with a cast of adolescent characters. Eager to impress, they highlight the violence and misogyny of the play but things become more complex as the romance unfolds. Director Christopher Harvey marries the split story well, slipping seamlessly between classroom and Verona with engaging but simple theatrics.

The cast attempt to lay bare the guts of the story and aside from a few gloriously over-the-top moments, they succeed. James Burman is a suitably fiery Romeo, but that’s nothing compared to Alexander Morris, who uncovers a petulant, positively aggressive streak in Juliet that may have hitherto gone un-noticed.  Calarco’s premise may seem seriously dated but it provides an interesting method of breaking down the gender politics of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Verdict
An overly sincere but likeable production examining the gender politics behind Shakespeare's enduring tragedy
Paul Vale
Paul has been writing for The Stage since 1998 as a critic and feature writer. He is also part of The Stage's Edinburgh Fringe review team.
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