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Romeo and Juliet at The Rose Playhouse, London

Romeo and JulietLondon is a city where the past and the present live side by side. St Paul’s Cathedral sits among gleaming tower blocks. The Tower sits with fast food joints and so no. Now, thanks to the Boxlit Productions, the old and new have combined as they bring their version of Romeo and Juliet to Shakespeare’s original home at the Rose Bankside.

Anyone that feels Shakespeare should not be meddled with should look away now as Sebastian Christophers, Chloe Levis and Andrew Livingstone – the three founders of Boxlit and co-directors of this production – have taken the original text of Romeo and Juliet and distilled it into a one hour show with two actors and a giant video screen, all contained in an illuminated box. Now, considering the original play has over twenty characters this shouldn’t work. And, I have to say, I was rather sceptical before seeing the show. But, I was wrong. Not only does the idea of two actors and a reduced character set work, but it works very well indeed. I don’t want to give too much away here but there were some absolutely genius touches to the staging – particularly in the way the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt – that really are jaw-dropping in both their simplicity and power. I also want to mention the ending of the play – again without spoilers. I have seen quite a few versions of Romeo and Juliet over the years, but this was the first production where I sat with a smile on my face as the curtain fell. It’s not that the ending has been changed – after all, what good is a Shakespearean tragedy if everyone gets together for a party in the final scene? – it’s just the way that the ending is portrayed is really rather lovely and warming to the cockles of my heart.

Aside from playing the two leads, Seb and Chloe play the other characters in the play with a variety of small costume and voice changes. But it is in the “balcony scene” that the two of them really shine. For me, of all the scenes in Romeo and Juliet, this one has to be perfect or the play loses momentum. The audience must be convinced that these youngsters – Juliet is 13 in the play, and Romeo is somewhere between 18 and 23 – who have only just met, really have fallen totally head over heels in love with each other. Both Seb and Chloe pulled this off spectacularly, with Seb’s Romeo breaking the fourth wall on occasion to tell the audience his thoughts and Chloe looking young but with the Capulet backbone as she soliloquises about how to make young Montague her own.

So, Romeo and Juliet as a two-hander really shouldn’t work but in the hands of Chloe, Sebastian and Andrew (doing all the technical bits) it not only works well but transforms the entire story to another level. As the lights went down at the end of the show, I could easily imagine the ghosts of the original audiences clapping along with those of the twenty-first century as this first-rate production of a Shakespearean classic comes home once more.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Combining cinematic film from award-winning Alisdair Livingstone (Director of Photography – BBC Blue Planet: Drowning in Plastic) with bold theatricality, evocative music and a dynamic glowing set, two performers play out Shakespeare’s most famous tale as you’ve never seen it before!

In a strange, uncertain place beyond the end of the story, two star-crossed lovers try desperately to reach each other, seeking answers for their short-lived life. Together, they explore their brief time together and discover that memory is much kinder than reality.

Sebastian Christophers: Co-Director/Performer
Chloe Levis: Co-Director/Performer
Andrew Livingstone: Co-Director/Producer

Romeo and Juliet
25th-28th October 2018
7:30pm Thursday-Saturday & 2:30pm Sunday
Running time: 1hr
The Rose Playhouse, 56 Park Street, London SE1 9AR

Recommended age guidance 12+

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