Theatre Review: THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester


THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET is a brave and bold production which stays true to Shakespeare’s original text

From Prokofiev’s famous ballet to Baz Luhrmann’s MTV-inspired film, William Shakespeare’s THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET has been adapted many times in many different ways. So it’s no surprise that Girl Gang Manchester chose this very play for their all-female version at Hope Mill Theatre.

THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET tells the story of two young star-crossed lovers, Romeo of house Montague and Juliet of house Capulet, who fall in love with each other despite a long-standing feud between their two noble families. However, the course of true love does not run smoothly and as the ancient family feud intensifies, the body count rises and the young lovers’ relationship is destined to end before it’s really begun.

Sticking closely to Shakespeare’s original text, Girl Gang Manchester’s version of Shakespeare’s tragic love story plays it relatively safe here, choosing to focus on the play’s themes of love, family, fate and tragedy. While the production has been given a contemporary twist (the Capulet ball in which Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time is now a warehouse rave), the sex or sexuality of the characters hasn’t been changed in any way despite its all-female cast and even the bloody sword fights have been retained thanks to some impressive fight sequences directed by Kaitlin Howard.

Much of the production’s success lies in the superb performances of the two leads. Amy Leeson is a joy to watch as the soon-to-be 14-year-old Juliet, capturing the mood and physicality of the heroine. Her performance with Emily Dowson as moody teenager Romeo is both fresh and meaningful and their chemistry on stage is believable and well matched.

The supporting cast is equally strong, particularly Elaine McNicol as Benvolio, who provides heart and soul to the tale, as well as Maria Major’s Nurse and Sophie Gidden’s Peter, who provide most of the comedy.

Yet, while this production effectively balances tragedy with comedy, a few scenes fall a little short of the mark. There is a tendency to over-emphasise with physical movement, particularly in the comedy sequences and some of the scene changes, particularly towards the end, are unnecessarily long.

That said, this is a brave, bold production that is full of life and energy. Add in some fine cast performances and it’s sure to win you over.

3.5 out of 5 stars

THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 29 June 2018.