ROMEO and Juliet will be brought to life in many and varied ways in The Salberg at Salisbury Playhouse next week.
The theatre’s associate director, Mark Powell, directs his own work, Romeo and Juliet: Unzipped, aiming to demonstrate, particularly to young people, the many different ways in which the works of the Bard can be staged.
“This production allows audiences to question every possible interpretation of the play and to come up with their own imaginative response to Shakespeare's words,” says Powell.
“The play suddenly becomes accessible to young people on their own terms.”
A company of five versatile actors stage, analyse and then restage key scenes and characters – changing roles, motivation and time periods to create Shakespeare’s whirling world of teenage passion.
The scene may be set in Elizabethan times, it may be in a Jeremy Kyle-style TV studio, or it may be anywhere in between.
“A lot of exam questions are about motivation and character, which is subjective,”
says Powell, “so it is important to give them as many different views as possible.
“They can see ways of staging a play that excite them and maybe inspire them to come up with their own ideas of how it could be done.”
Powell has staged The Tempest and Macbeth in the same way, but has found that Romeo and Juliet is the work that best lends itself to what he is trying to achieve.
“It is a story that teenagers can relate to because it is about teenagers,” he explains.
“It is the perfect way to switch on a teenager who might think Shakespeare is boring.
“It is wonderful to see young people truly excited by texts they originally had trouble engaging with and the reasons why Shakespeare can be reinvented for every generation.”
The performances includes examinations of Shakespeare’s language, ideas and themes, interspersed with historical details in an accessible and often humorous way but Powell sees no need to meddle with the text.
“If the storytelling is clear, then you will understand it, even if you don’t understand every word that’s spoken.
“And there is no need to deliver the words in that ponderous, over-pronounced kind of way that is sometimes done just because it is Shakespeare.
That wasn’t how it was delivered in Shakespearean times.”
The lighting, costumes and scenery are changed throughout – taking the audience from Juliet’s balcony in Verona to a graffiti-marked estate in modern times.
And although it is aimed primarily at teenagers, Powell says anyone can enjoy the opportunity to look at something well-known with new eyes.
“I think they will be intrigued and provoked by the questions asked of the audience.
“And I think they will enjoy watching a new generation of theatre-going audience being excited by Shakespeare.
“There is a lot of energy in there.”
Once it has finished its run at the Playhouse, Romeo and Juliet: Unzipped, which is sponsored by Wiltshire College, will go on to the Egg Theatre in Bath in March.
Each performance is followed by a post-show discussion.
- A limited number of free tickets to some performances are available for youth groups, schools and youth theatres catering for children aged 13 to 19.
This offer is funded by the National Theatre Connections Development.
The following performances are included: Thursday, February 27, 10.30am and 7pm.
Friday, February 28, 10.30am Saturday, March 1, 7pm. Contact Eugenia Whitby on 01722 345165 for more information or to make a booking.
- Romeo and Juliet: Unzipped is being staged at The Salberg, Salisbury Playhouse from Tuesday, February 25 to Saturday, March 1.
Tickets at salisburyplayhouse.com or on 01722 320333.