The 2017 Everyman Company and actors from Young Everyman Playhouse brought Romeo & Juliet to Liverpool, shaking up the original text with some LGBTQIA+ intersectionality. The story would lend itself well to this—the division between Montague’s and Capulets has the ability to stretch and shift beyond just family rivalry. With this in mind, I was expecting to see more explicit representation of racial minority and LGBTQIA+ struggles within the production.
Even though the production was performed as it was originally written, there was still a huge opportunity missed. Excellent performances were given, but the roles remained under-developed, failing to explore the radical potential of the LGBTQIA+ recontextualisation. Unfortunately, this rather capitalised on, rather than explored, minority experiences.
I felt this first with the introduction of the Montague’s who sported Irish accents and 80’s neon business-chic. I was confused as to which of these were deliberate choices, and why those choices might have been made. Romeo didn’t sound Irish, and he and his brothers were dressed in more a high-street gang-garb than glittered power-suits. Julius’ family leaned into a little bit more variety, with more Indian and Caribbean patterns and colours but this, as a means of narrative-driven inclusion, was about it.
I enjoyed Baz Lurhmans’ film adaptation, and I felt this production was unable to step outside of that retelling. This specific production has its own nuances but I don’t think it went far enough into that to be completely original.
The rave scene in particular could have been an immersion into the celebratory and youthful aspects of this story. Instead, it felt like a standard night-club scene. It could’ve been dance-hall, it could’ve been drag-ball – anything but a reflection of the bog-standard club where racial minorities and LGBTQIA+ youth are often not welcome. It didn’t give its characters their own real world, more asked them to be convincing in someone else’s.
There was some gorgeous singing from the Maid who was delightful to watch and stirred genuine emotion throughout. For me, however, Mercutio stole the show. He often does. Portrayed by Dean Nolan in a feathered mohawk, black kilt and well executed stunts he was easily the most exciting actor. He straddled the queer subtext by sliding between between masculinity and effeminacy.
“Flies may do this” Romeo announces, again alluding gently to a new context – that in certain parts of the world LGBTQIA+ people cannot, by law, have sex. This allusion felt all too accidental, and this is a general guide to how the production deals with its queer and racial elements.
I wanted this production to be as exciting as its performances. To be promised the greatest love story ever told, except this time with men, the queerness of the script was sadly unrepresented.
Romeo & Juliet runs until 28th June.