Review Juliet Romeo

Review: Juliet + Romeo at The Chelsea Theatre

Review: Juliet + Romeo at The Chelsea Theatre

A review by Jenny Booth: “Juliet + Romeo is community theatre at its absolute finest, knocking the socks off many a professional production”.


It is rare to come across a piece of theatre that is so fresh, so vibrant and so exciting that, even though not perfect, it demands to be given five stars. Look no further than Intermission Youth Theatre’s riveting production of Juliet + Romeo, a show that doesn’t so much tinker with Shakespeare’s text as blast it into a thousand pieces then remix it with the addition of new characters, urban street language and a reengineered ending.

This is Shakespeare reimagined by Generation Z and set right here and now: where the warring families are London street crews, the lovers exchange tattoos rather than vows, and a positive Covid test is the horseshoe nail that leads to disaster. In the most daring change, there is a gender swap. Romeo is a gentle dreamy Capulet boy, the odd one out in a criminal gang dominated by his fearsome sister, Capo – there are no bossy parents in this version of the play. The audience’s jaw drops as brash, physical Juliet Montague glimpses Romeo across a crowded dancefloor, and stands beneath his window as he complains: “Juliet, Juliet – wherefore art thou Juliet?” It is Juliet who knifes Tybalt (“Tibs”) and has to flee the ‘hood.

Director Darren Raymond wrote the script based on improvisation by the cast, adding a chorus that mostly works as a dramatic device, though the voices are sometimes ragged. In another twist, the actors are reorganised in two different castings, who perform on alternate nights. On press night the Juliet cast gave a performance of stellar quality and high emotion. The moment when Romeo (Chadrack Mbuini) and Juliet (Ophelia J Wisdom) first lock eyes and enter their own private universe is as touching and timeless as ever, and their deaths are as desolating. Mercutio (Niara Rowe in both casts) is likeable, fast-talking and angular, while Elijah Maximus brings personality to the posturing Tibs.

In the TalkBack after the show, it was very engaging to hear how passionate and articulate each of the young amateur actors was about the production, and how much of themselves they had ploughed into their parts. This 110% commitment has created a triumph: Shakespeare’s story is energised. Juliet + Romeo is community theatre at its absolute finest, knocking the socks off many a professional production. Intermission has just set up its own acting agency to manage the young talent it hones, and it would be no surprise if Hollywood beat a path to its door.

Image: © Richard Jinman