Theatre Review: Romeo and Juliet

Gate Theatre, Dublin

The star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare’s play are one of the most famous pairings in Western culture. A further doomed romance plays itself out in Shakespeare’s text, however, and that is the human attraction of youth to destruction, our rival bonds to passion and decay, love and death.

This is the darker material of Shakespeare’s play and Wayne Jordan’s production gets to grips with it well, particularly in the second half where a dark energy consumes everyone onstage.

Jordan’s Lady Capulet ( Natalie Radmall-Quirke) and her husband ( Simon O’Gorman) are pitched as kind of Romeo and Juliet gone to seed, their own youth having been stolen from them by an oppressive social system.

Quite rightly, Jordan challenges the text, ditching the Elizabethan garb for more contemporary costume and mobilising all sorts of modern elements. Romeo ( Fra Fee) arrives onstage with a ghetto-blaster playing the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. Later.

In fact, music plays a significant role throughout, sometimes too intrusively. A re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, while performed well, is far too contrived.

Related: When familiarity breeds new opportunity in Shakespeare’s Romeo and juliet

Other elements — the way that Tybalt ( Ian Toner) swanks around the place like the rich villain of a John Hughes teen drama — are suggestive without being overdone.

Fra Fee and Lauren Coe put in charismatic performances in the lead roles, but the scene-stealers are Ruth McGill’s nurse, performed as a kind of mildly unhinged mannequin, and Tadhg Murphy’s Mercutio, a weird cocktail of desire and death drive.

For all its manic impulses, however, the production could dare to be more incendiary still and it never quite finds the right balance between the classic and the subversive.

Until May 16

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