Romeo and Juliet
King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 28 Oct–Sat 1 Nov
Shakespeare’s enduring tale of star-crossed lovers and warring families has benefited from numerous treatments down the centuries, from faithful period settings to the gland-snapping musical adaptation of West Side Story and the exhilarating post-punk thrills of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version. Now, the Royal Shakespeare Company has risen to the challenge of how to keep the familiar tale fresh and exciting for audiences, with a stylish new production that draws on the threads, sounds and ambience of 1940s and 50s Italy.
‘There is a real feeling of danger and style to this production,’ says David Dawson, who plays Romeo. ‘All the gangs of sharply suited Verona boys carry flick knives at all times, and with the live band playing threatening and sexy Italian music throughout it gives the play a real dark edge.’
To create his new production for the RSC, director Neil Bartlett has focused particularly on the Italian references in the play, including allusions to midday heat and fiery tempers. While the staging itself will be minimal, the costume design has been inspired by the early films of Visconti, Pasolini and Fellini, as well as Coppola’s Italy in the Godfather movies.
‘It’s great being in one of the most famous stories ever written,’ says Dawson. ‘I suppose because everybody knows the tragic tale, our challenge is to make it all the more terrifying and moving, because you know what’s going to happen as the world and Fate turn against the lovers. Neil Bartlett is also incredibly instinctive and challenges you right out of your comfort zone, encouraging you to be brave.’
As Dawson makes clear, however, it’s the love story aspect of the play that keeps bringing audiences back for more. ‘What I find so special about this play is that it’s about that one love in your life that you’ve either experienced or wished you had when nothing else matters but each other,’ he says. ‘I think what people love about the story is that Romeo and Juliet do very quickly, what people often wish they could do.’