National Youth Theatre transports Romeo and Juliet to 1950s Britain


Photo Helen Murray

Miztli Cadena says catch a bus to the West End and be transported to 1950s England by the National Youth Theatre’s Rome and Juliet. Sometimes the journey’s worth it.

Now in its fourth season, National Youth Theatre Rep Company has returned to London’s glittering West End with a fiery production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

In an abridged version by Owen Horsey, Shakespeare’s tragedy of star crossed lovers is cleverly transported to 1950s England: a world in which the Montague Capulet rivalry is played out by gangs of Teddy Boys and Girls. But this production makes it clear that the real battle is not between the ‘kids’ themselves but between the kids and their parents.

national-youth-theatres-romeo-and-juliet-credit-helen-murray-1025-jpgThe ‘grown ups’ represent greed, tyranny, and old fashioned hedonism; they go shooting and throw decadent parties whilst dictating their children’s future with iron fists. One can’t help feeling some post Brexit grievances are at play here. NYT REP is the perfect company to set this tale of youth rebellion in the age where the teenager was first invented.

Under Kate Hewitt’s expert direction the cast do an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy to life: at the centre of the play James Mace and Shalisha James-Davis provide solid performances as Romeo and Juliet,  bringing a refreshing level of youthful innocence to these iconic characters. The supporting cast are a joy to watch with standout performances from Flex Mckenzie-Barrow and Natasha Heliotis as Lord and Lady Capulet (definitely in the running for the worst parent award). Comic relief comes from Arianna Beadie as Juliet’s highly strung Nurse who achieves moments of comic brilliance. And the ensemble work together beautifully to create fine-tuned movement sequences adding a visceral power to the show.

The actors are aided by a set, costume and sound design that work together to create a sublime production that is full of energy, passion and plenty of blood and guts. NYT REP was set up in 2012 to nurture and showcase some of Britain’s most talented young actors and this production is proof of why organisations like The National Youth theatre must continue to exist.

Romeo and Juliet is playing at The Ambassador’s Theatre until 23 November

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