William Shakespeare's epic tragedy Romeo & Juliet became unforgettable for the star-crossed lovers with the deepest love and tragedy attached. & Juliet is unforgettable for the raw truth breaking the chains designed by Shakespeare (and the Elizabethan troupes of the time).
& Juliet takes the power of plot from Mr William Shakespeare, played by Oliver Tompsett, and gives voice to his neglected wife Anne, played by Cassidy Janson, who decides to begin at the end but with the twist that Juliet realises she is more than Romeo's destiny. The journey she takes away from the dirge of the Capulet's Verona, finds her and friends in Paris to meet a whole new entourage of challenges.
With a host of diverse talent, Max Martin's music & lyrics burst off the sheet with 90s and noughties pop songs cleverly tailored to express the injustices of Elizabethan society. Similarly, David West Read's book leaps off the page highlighting the ever-present challenges of identity and sexuality.
Despite spontaneous interruptions from the author, Shakespeare and Anne seem to have moments of borderline Greek forum theatre as they discuss corrections or improvements to create the best story. This in turn results in the reveal that this has all been for the purpose of exposing to Shakespeare his ignorance of female empowerment and love for his art more than his wife.
Miriam-Teak Lee's Juliet is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Their navigation of some incredibly challenging pop songs is seamless. Similarly, Juliet's best friend ‘Mae', played by Joe Foster gives a cathartic and resonating honesty to the hard-hitting and relatable challenges of identity. Carl Man's appearance as Romeo is exactly as it should be: soppy and pathetic, but with an impressive set of vocals. Juliet's new romantic affair exists in Francois, played by Christian Maynard, and his lonely father Lance, played by Nicolas Colicos. The pair excellently expose the fragility of masculinity rooting from father-son relationships. Colicos has a wonderful romp with Juliet's nurse, played by Malinda Parris, who takes the award for best vocals.
Janson's Anne is a comedic highlight. Their happy-go-lucky oblivious approach to negating Shakespeare's previous narrative is laugh-out-loud quality. Tompsett's William enjoys being the butt of the joke for putting their foot in it however lightly they try to tread.
& Juliet runs until March 25th, 2023. With a talented ensemble such as this, it would be a shame to miss. You can find tickets from £29 by clicking here, with an extra 8% off using the code LTR8.
Review: Sebastian Calver Photo: Johan Persson