Romeo and Juliet, BOV Young Company and Young SixSix, at Bristol Old Vic, Weston Studio

THIS production, devised by the company under the direction of Julia Head, looks at Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy from the view of young people living in 2022.

Any traditional interpretations making full use of the poetry within the words are cast aside in order to emphasise the raw emotions, frustrations and deep passions within the story. Adult characters are dispensed with, replaced by siblings, cousins and friends. Indeed they would be in the way as we watch young,  vulnerable inexperienced people, trying to find their way through the labyrinth of prejudices inherited from previous adult generations.

The honesty  and naivety of some of their choices as some fight hard to challenge those prejudices, and others to preserve them, is there in every scene, forcing the audience to take sides.

In the midst of this, acting as a catalyst, is the story of Romeo and Juliet, who fall in love and remain inseparable unto death, despite coming from two families, who like so many countries throughout the world today, torn apart by civil war, find it impossible to  come to terms with one other.

Playing with great intensity throughout Elizabeth Anderson (Juliet) and Thabo Kona (Romeo), making excellent use of mime, underline the depth of their passionate love, as they move on with agonising certainty to their tragic deaths. Sadie Gray as Juliet’s strong willed elder sister Mata, Dupri Walker (Tybalt) and Kieran Graham (Mercutio)  made a fine job of representing old entrenched ideas, with more reasoned thinking coming from Liana Cottrill ({Vanessa), Tamzin Khan (Jude), Khadijah Sawyers (Benvolio) and Grace Dobson (Frieda Lawrence).

A quite fulsome musical background was supplied by percussion and composer/pianist Jack Orozco Morrison, added a great deal to the big set pieces, and to the lovely moment when Romeo and Juliet first meet in a dance. During some of the quieter moments, when Shakespeare’s words were the predominant feature, the steady beating in the background was a little intrusive. And on more than one occasion actors forgot that they were not whispering into a TV camera, and there was a live audience surrounding them, anxious to hear every word.

This production sets out to tell more than a simple tragic love story. It wants to show you the intensity and deep passion young people feel towards the mountainous tasks placed before them by thoughtless previous generations, and their determination to overcome such challenges. The company may not be as yet at the top of the theatrical learning curve, but they left the audience in no doubt that they are a generation which is not to be trifled with, and will be heard, loud and clear.


Photographs by Chelsea Cliff

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