Romeo & Juliet

Ola Ince's exciting new adaptation of the Shakespeare classic offers theatre lovers a brave new perspective on the story of star crossed lovers. Peter Gray reports

Rebekah Murrell as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, 2021. Photographer: Marc Brenner

Purists may struggle with the Globe’s latest version of Romeo & Juliet but for those who stick around there is certainly plenty to enjoy.

Director Ola Ince has delivered a spiky, bombastic and very political version of the classic complete with thumping modern soundtrack, BMX bikes and a large screen explaining the production’s key themes. Indeed, the subtitles are the most obvious evidence of Ince’s take on the play, which reframes the meeting of star crossed lovers as a story of two tragicc young people who have become trapped by deep routed societal problems as well as by their own mental health issues.

This approach certainly sacrifices some of the innocence and immediacy of the original source material, however, Ince’s treatment brings the play kicking and screaming into the 21st century. This means that Romeo is depicted as a BMX bike riding street ruff while Juliet is here rendered as a kickboxing and boy boxing dame.

This modern approach admittedly sometimes proves challenging, particularly in a party/first meeting scene where Juliet and Romeo suddenly morph into club mc’s in order to sing/rap their first reactions to each other. For the most part, however, Ince’s Romeo & Juliet is a charming and delightful romp full of charm and invention.

Alfred Enoch makes an excellent Romeo, all doe-eyed innocence in the early scenes and yet perfectly managing the later transistion to a more adult persona during the latter stages of the play when he realises that he has been sentenced to banishment from his love.Rebekah Murrell is great too as Juliet. Wide eyed and girlish in the scenes with her mum, Juliet is nonetheless more than match for Romeo in later scenes.

Dwayne Walcott may look more like Stormzy than a renaissance noble but he is great as Juliet’s oily suitor Paris. The actor brings just the right balance of charm and unctuousness to the role. Sirine Saba makes an amusing and engaging nurse too.

Save for the off key party scene, the big scenes work agreeably well, with Enoch clambering up a ladder for a touching balcony scene and Mercutio’s death rendered hugely moving by acctor Adam Gillen’s skilful performance.

The whole thing moves at a breathtaking speed and two hours speed by in a blink of an eye, which is just as well as there is no intermission in performances at the Globe just now.

Shakespeare Globe’s latest version of Romeo & Juliet will certainly not find favour everywhere and it may well prove an adaptation too far for purists. However, for everyone else, Ola Ince’s Globe debut should prove a fun, engaging, and thoroughly rewarding two hours.

Ola Ince’s Romeo & Juliet is at Shakespeare’s Globe until the 17th of October 2021. More information about the performance can be found here.

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-London's Best Events-
What: theatre play
When: Until 17 Oct 21
Where: Southwark
Website: Romeo & Juliet