Romeo and Juliet

Mon 12th – Sun 18th August 2013


Suzanne Duffy

at 21:54 on 16th Aug 2013



For the first ten minutes of this Bristol-based ensemble’s version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ I was unconvinced. Although the show billed itself as an attempt to make Shakespeare accessible to children, the introduction of the child Emily (Millie Corser) grated on me; I felt that having adults play children was best left to the realm of pantomime.

However, my initial reservations were blown away by the sheer enthusiasm of the cast and the reaction of the children who were watching the show. The character of Emily develops as she begins play-acting ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in her bedroom. She watches as the play unfolds and engineers the plot in place of characters like the Friar in the original version, with Corser bringing an optimism and a playfulness to the role which was delightful to watch.

Most of the lines of the actors are from the original play and Emily is told that their language is different from hers: “you have to say it in Shakespeare or we can’t understand you.” This is both an original way of easing children into the archaic vocabulary and a sly nod to the fact that adults in the audience can remember squinting over Shakespeare in high school and despairing of ever understanding it.

While the children in the audience looked mildly disgusted or confused by Romeo and Juliet’s first kiss, the sexual tension in the play was hilariously deflated for their amusement: Romeo’s first glimpse of Juliet is as she pretends to play a slow motion guitar solo on a broom and in order to stop Tybalt ruining the romance Emily blows a long, loud raspberry in his face.

The set includes a bunk bed which serves as a balcony which the actors frequently clamber over, sit on, and jump from, lending the play an energy which kept even the youngest children engaged. Several instruments liven up the atmosphere, and Patrick Tolan’s beatboxing is a particular highlight. Music is also used to crank up the tension in the well-choreographed fight scene between Mercutio and Tybalt with Juliet’s (Bethan Nash’s) haunting singing in the background. In this scene it was like a switch was flicked and I realised suddenly that the infectious joy of the production had made me forget I was watching a tragedy.

Emily undergoes a similar realisation as she watches from above and suddenly her intervention in the love story no longer seems so benign. The production is not didactic, but Emily’s mistake appears to be in believing that everything must have a happy ending and both she, and the young audience, learn at the same moment that not everything does.


Joshua Adcock

at 22:04 on 16th Aug 2013



I’d imagine that most adults find Shakespeare pretty difficult to get to grips with, so I don’t envy anyone whose job it is to try and convince children to get excited about it. But that’s what The New Mutiny set out to do, and, as far as I can tell, they managed to do so very well, putting on a show likely to have enthralled kids and adults alike.

Full of imaginative force, the show is constituted as a childrens’ tale with a narrator called Emily, who reads the story from a book, and so the play springs to life in the metaphorical space of her bedroom. Emily, in a stroke of ingenuity on the part of the writer, also performs some of the functions of Benvolio and Friar Laurence, giving the audience a protagonist through which to concentrate the action, as well as a privileged position from which to observe Romeo.

In terms of making Shakespeare accessible to younger audiences, the show conveys a good general impression of the plot and characters to the audience, explaining the harder parts of the language and coming up with inventive and enthusiastic, but truthful, ways of communicating the rest.

The play does sometimes seem a little pantomime-esque, especially at first, and is sometimes a little too childish, perhaps a result of having to aim at very young children as well, making those moments somewhat unpalatable for older audiences. Yet, to its great credit, for the vast majority of the run it holds the attention of all ages.

Set and costume are a delight, encompassing a unified vision of recycled clothes, paint spattered skinny jeans, and frock coats held together with leather and string, making for a ramshackle, rockstar look, combined with a ‘scenical’ set. The characters leap and roll over the set and bound across the stage, with each piece of refuse changing its identity depending on context: a ladder becomes a funeral bier, a paintbrush a dagger, and so on, with red ribbon streamers as a particularly nice symbolic element. The whole set is based around a cabin bed which also performs the function of a Shakespearean balcony. This child-like, wide eyed enthusiasm reveals new meanings and interpretations of Shakespeare’s words, and the gaps in between, even managing to find unexpected moments of humour.

Brilliant and lively performances were on display all around, though special credit must be given to Millie Corser playing Emily, who held the play together with her humour, expressivity, and child-like awe.

'Romeo and Juliet' pulls the whole audience in and keeps its attention; it has oodles of colour, wit and joyous energy, totally apt for the young passions of Romeo and Juliet.


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