The show opens to the sound of children’s voices echoing dangerously throughout the theatre, whilst two characters give birth (and I mean this literally) to two black coffins, and therefore the story, beneath two giant bombs and a tattered black mezzanine hang from the ceiling.
It’s no less radical a reinterpretation – the two lovers are reconceived as gay footballers here – but where Andy Bewley’s production really succeeds is in capturing the exultant highs of heady teen romance and the troubling lows of battling a world that doesn’t accept you.
The opening production in the ‘Summer of Love’ is Daniel Kramer’s Romeo and Juliet and following Rice’s lead, it is bold and brash, full of light and sound, and the kind of ferocious energy that you can easily imagine raising the hackles once again of those influential precious few.
A self-described modern rep company, Merely Theatre is addressing Shakespeare’s gender problem with 50/50 casting. Five male/female pairs each learn a set of characters in two plays, then on the night it’s decided who will perform.
It’s so easy to brush aside a production of Romeo and Juliet – it’s overdone, every one knows it, it’s not innovative. But when it’s staged with energy, passion and commitment, the story shines through and you’re reminded that it’s actually a wonderful play.