Romeo and Juliet @ West Yorkshire Playhouse

Tessa Parr as Juliet and Dan Parr as Romeo. Photography by Anthony Robling (2)

Photographs credited to Anthony Robling

How is it possible to interpret a classic play that has been rehashed, reworked and rejigged more times than you can imagine? I don’t know how she does it, but Director Amy Leach manages to do just that. The result? Magic.

Romeo and Juliet are played with innocence and ingenuity in the first act, young teenagers wrapped up in themselves and the limited world around them. Dan Parr masterfully manages to add humour and likability to the role through his laddish swagger that captures Tessa Parr’s adorable Juliet’s heart. The connection between the two is incredibly real and believable and at so many points throughout the play I find myself smiling out of sheer joy watching them interact with one another with excitement and love.

The Montague / Capulet divide is well handled and Leach managed to make this modern-day without falling into a gang-rivalry situation that has already been done time without number. Keiran Flynn has a small but powerful role as Montague, a perfect counterpart to Jack Lord’s Capulet. He is bold, nasty and brutal and this is highlighted and yet softened somehow by his glamorous wife, played by Natalie Anderson. Susan Cookson holds the Capulet family together as Nurse – she’s hilariously funny, loyal, kind and absolutely likeable throughout. Her acting prowess leaps to the forefront in the more serious scenes where she demonstrates her ability to dig deep as well as bring the audience to tears with laughter.

Mention must go to Olwen May as Reverend Laurence. I wasn’t sure how she would interpret the role, which is often played by a male member of cast, but I honestly can’t imagine a better interpretation. Same goes for Elexi Walker as Mercutio – a bold, brave and brilliant performance.

Every single member of the main cast speaks each line with conviction and manages to “translate” the Shakespearean language so the play’s dialogue flows beautifully. Humour, wonder, thoughtfulness and sadness is brought from the script in a magical blend of true genius. You must see this play as an example of impeccable Shakespeare interpretation.

I’m not keen, however, on the Young People’s Company, who seem slightly included for the sake of it in some scenes. Though it’s wonderful to see young people being given such an incredible opportunity, at times I do feel the show suffers for it. You have the likes of Tachia Newall stalking across the stage as the muscled Tybalt and unfortunately they just can’t compete with that level of gravitas and so it sometimes jars. The youngsters all deliver their lines well, though, and they are all incredibly focused which is lovely to see and I hope to see them all on stage again soon.

The second act, though undoubtedly darker, is equally as captivating as the first. I was in floods of tears at the ending (and am tearing up as I write this, also). To create a performance where the audience is so emotionally invested in the characters takes mind-blowing skill, innate talent and creativity – and this production has it all.

You really must get tickets to see this show – it’s a masterpiece from start to finish. Catch it at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 25th March.