Romeo and Juliet
Director Paul Stebbings explores the depths of this tragedy and its central conflict between love and death, Eros and Thanatos.The setting is baroque Italy, the Verona and Venice of Casanova, Don Juan and Vivaldi.
»West Side Story« and Leonardo di Caprio’s recent gangster version cast long shadows on this delicate play. But this is not a play about poor urban street fighters, nor a play about racial conflict. The Capulets and Montagues are of the same caste and share the same values. Their retainers fight on the streets. Shakespeare is criticising their joint values, which are those of powerful families. This is, of course, the stuff of tragedy: when the mighty sin the state trembles. The »star crossed lovers« deaths expose the follies of the vicious clan warfare that their families perpetuate. Those families are reformed and reconciled. None of this makes any sense if Romeo is some broke and hip street kid. The Montagues and Capulets are two sides of the same coin.
They are also Italian. And so one starting point of our production is to stay with Shakespeare’s torrid Latin setting. We choose to locate the production in Baroque Italy – the world of Casanova, Don Juan, Vivaldi and Bernini Italy, where clan violence, dignity, aristocracy, Catholicism, arranged marriages and chaste love are all imaginable. A world where the symbolic becomes real is a myriad statues and paintings that flit between love and death – Eros and Thanatos – the tension at the heart of this bloody romance.
The play is highly stylised, masked balls and ritual violence form set pieces. We will employ stylised choreography and once again commission a live musical score from a leading composer. While establishing a rich theatrical environment we will also strive to maintain a shakespearian style that relies on the actor’s skills and audience’s imagination rather than complex settings and design. As with our current acclaimed production of »Hamlet«, we will attempt to present the play rather than impose a simplistic interpretation on the original. »Romeo and Juliet« is one of the most popular plays ever written, we aim to present it with its poetry and romance intact, while delivering a powerful, stylised drama.
Paul Stebbings directed »Romeo and Juliet« for the company five years ago – this new version, freshly set and edited, will draw on the strengths of the earlier production while charting a new and exciting course.