The brazen break from tradition, with techno music, sexed up acrobats, cabaret YMCA and rap battle beats is a big fat finger up to the Globe board of directors.
When the powers that be decided new artistic director Emma Rice was too bold, too edgy and not nearly Elizabethan enough in her inaugural 2016 Wonder Season, it was announced Rice's second season at The Globe will be her last.
And so the Summer of Love 2017 season opens with a defiant message to all those hankering for the doublets and ruffs of the old Globe.
Director Daniel Kramer (artistic director of English National Opera) transforms the opening sonnet into a deathly festival, with the Montague and Capulet mothers cradling tiny coffins as they recite the rhyming inevitability of the star-crossed lovers’ death.
This elaborate morbidness cuts through the whole production, balanced with a frenetic energy akin to a teenage rave. Techo music blares out and dancing is more slut drop and dabbing than traditional jigs.
Elizabethan accoutrements of the open air stage are overshadowed by looming black canopies and two black bombs suspended above the stage, ready to drop. Grungy contemporary costumes are accented in black, white and red, complete with obligatory Dr Marten boots for all the cast. Faces are decorated in monochrome paint, like Day of the Dead skulls; by the end, after passion and anguish, they are a smeared, blurry mess.
Every last sexual reference of Shakespeare’s script is squeezed out and the poetry is said with adolescent sarcasm rather than sincerity. Romeo (Edward Hogg) and Juliet (Kirsty Bushell) fall in love with a clumsy awkwardness, toying with the verse rather than taking it seriously.
Audience members were open mouthed, some people with delight and other (mostly older) people with outrage.
There’s entertainment value in this high-octane approach, though it can be fatiguing. The main downfall is how the elevated pace flattens out the plot’s emotional spikes. The Tybalt tension gets lost in a muddle of faux fighting and that sharp u-turn from comedy to tragedy loses its bitter bite. This Romeo and Juliet is funny enough – just not romantic or tragic enough to really satisfy.
|What||Romeo and Juliet, The Globe review|
|Where||The Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Blackfriars (underground)|
22 Apr 17 – 09 Jul 17, Performance times vary
|Price||£5.00 – £45.00|
|Website||Click here to book via The Globe|