Shakespeare’s story gets a modern twist

The cast of Romeo and Juliet by the New Theatre Royal's youth theatre
The cast of Romeo and Juliet by the New Theatre Royal's youth theatre

From broken bones to new beginnings

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Shakespeare’s epic love story Romeo and Juliet will be brought to life in a modern gritty environment by a group of talented schoolchildren.

Members of the New Theatre Royal’s youth theatre in Portsmouth will be taking to the stage tomorrow with their hard-hitting production.

The idea to set the play on an urban estate came from the young people themselves, who have risen to the challenge of portraying the story of two young lovers defying the hatred and brutality of their feuding families.

But even though the setting is of our age, the language is 100 per cent Shakespeare.

Liz Weston, education and outreach officer, says: ‘I am so impressed with how the young people have interpreted the play and with their confidence on stage.

‘Their dedication shows how much young people can achieve if they have a common goal and work together.

‘This production is proof that Shakespeare is accessible – a lot of the fear of performing Shakespeare is just that.

‘As soon as the young actors had an understanding of what the play was about the language was not an obstacle at all.’

She adds: ‘The beauty about Romeo and Juliet is that the themes of love, jealousies and gangs is universal, so it works in any context and it always strikes a chord.

‘It’s going to be a terrific night and I hope many people come along to see for themselves!’

While the Montague and Capulet families were initially separated to prepare their scenes, the whole cast has been rehearsing together since October.

The leading roles of Romeo and Juliet are taken by Charlie Albuery, 14, and Jess Grinter, 15, but the production is very much a team effort with the 12 to 16-year-old cast members.

Lillie Walsh, 15, who attends Priory School in Southsea, plays the part of the nurse.

She says: ‘It has been great taking on this role. It is a really good part and I love the comedy of the character. It has been a challenge playing someone older.’

Leanne Leach, 15, a pupil at City of Portsmouth Girls’ School, adds: ‘Being Lord Capulet has improved my skills in acting – it’s brilliant being part of the Capulet family!’

Tickets to Romeo and Juliet tomorrow at 7.30pm cost £5/£3 (conc). To book call the box office on (023) 9264 9000.