Guy Masterson and Nick Hennegan have long form at the fringe, separately and together. But here, with Masterson as producer and Hennegan as adapter and director, they fall short.
Hennegan’s hacked and awkwardly updated text is a “fresh, feminist take” on Romeo and Juliet, apparently. The blurb promises a Juliet “who knows what’s what” (hmm).
To watch, however, it’s just normal Romeo and Juliet, except in this one a man shouts in Juliet’s face, grabs her by the chin and pushes her to the ground.
In this one, Juliet wears very short, tight tennis shorts.
Those aren’t in the text; those are choices. Just some of the many awful, confusing decisions that make up this show.
It’s set in Birmingham – Aston Villa versus Birmingham City rather than Montague/Capulet – which makes for some phenomenal lines like “hence from Birmingham art thou banished”. The production doesn’t quite commit to the resetting: the two actors playing everyone who’s not Romeo and Juliet occasionally speak in Birmingham accents, R&J themselves are pretty crystal RP.
The marriage of Shakespearean language and modern interruptions – Tinder, grime – is excruciatingly naff. Some scenes have music so loud that the actors are entirely drowned out. There are half-hearted physical scenes that should go.
Nor is there a set, so it relies on energetic performances from a capable cast (although one performer’s over-egging makes his roles way too comic in an otherwise quite serious register).
None of it meshes, none of it justifies the endeavour. Feminism as fad is a pretty cynical way to sell a show.