The big brass bed that sits at the centre of the stage has already seen plenty of action by the looks of things at the start of Emily Reutlinger's production of Shakespeare's doomed love story, performed here by a cast of eight second year BA Acting students. There's a torch on top of the covers, and Romeo and Juliet themselves are standing there with their fractured families, telling the audience what happened with a venom only the victims of a pointless feud can muster.
Beginning the play at its end like this so everything that follows is in flashback is an initially disarming proposition for the audience watching from three sides of a strip-lit stage area, but it's one that's never laboured in a production that focuses on the uber-real looking interplay between the main players. Michael Abubakar in particular is a revelation as an urchin-like Romeo, who blags his way into the Capulets' big do with his mates as a masked lo-fi musical troupe before falling for Emma Hindle's tomboyish and stubbornly refusenik Juliet.
Here the heads of the families are women and the gangs are androgynously pan-sexual, even as they spar themselves into oblivion. Andy Kettu's Friar is a guru-like mentor to Romeo, while Ainsley Jordan has some fine comic moments with the Nurse's faux airs and graces. Swirling video projections spill blood on the carpet, while the whole thing is pulsed along by a glitchy electronic soundtrack. Reutlinger's production ends where it began, and it is the dead souls themselves who utter the play's final words, accusatory spirits caught in the crossfire, damning those responsible.
The Herald, January 14th 2016