EdFringe 2018 Review: Curious Pheasant’s Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet
Rating: ★★★★

Venue: The Space – Niddry Street

Of all Shakespeare’s works, Romeo and Juliet has become the most adapted – so putting a fresh spin on the Bard’s timeless work is surely a challenge for anyone wishing to adapt it. Curious Pheasant Theatre Company use a mix of physical theatre and inventive twists to turn the 1597 play into a contemporary gay love story.

Divided by their opposing rugby sides, Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers find themselves drawn together – threatening the dynamic of both teams.

This condensed forty-five minute version of the show makes some characters sacrifices (with some only mentioned in name e.g. a gender swapped Paris), yet for a fresh take on the work, this is to be expected. The streets of Verona become rugby pitches (making way for some inventively staged rugby sequences), the Capulet party becomes a boozy post-rugby celebration, and the tomb of the original becomes a train station. These contemporary locations and set-ups bizarrely work well with Shakespeare’s classic prose and add some unpredictability to the expected narrative.

A handsome all male cast (hello Romeo and Tybalt) with the exception of an excellent female Benvolio – all have their names printed on the back of their rugby strips, a nice time saving move that immediately familiarises us with the characters. The gender-swapped Juliet plays the role with a sense of conviction, capturing the caution and giddiness of a new love, whilst our Romeo channels the whimsy and hot-headed passion of Shakespeare’s character with a stirring energy. Each supporting player packs an enthusiasm and impressive familiarity with the text into their energetic performances.

Curious Pheasant’s Romeo and Juliet is a punchy, well-crafted update of the Shakespeare classic that finds much freshness in its queer retelling.

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