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Romeo and Juliet

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

Following the cross-dressing high-jinks of Twelfth Night, the gender-blind Merely Theatre's second touring show takes a leap closer to the multi-tasking cast of five's own age range. The result is a very laid-back looking quintet in a dressed-down take on Shakespeare's evergreen tragedy of teenage kicks caught in the crossfire of family feuds and gang warfare.

The Montague boys out on the razz are in uniform grey tops and jeans in Scott Ellis' production, while the Capulets sport several shades of discreetly attention-seeking tartan. This gives the visual impression of a bunch of retro indie kids picking a fight with revivalist hipsters. While hardly mods versus rockers class war, the image does help heighten the air of everyone involved being too young and stupid to know better. This in turn gives things a giddy gush of hormone-fired energy that drives the doomed romance between Sarah Peachey's Romeo and Emmy Rose's Juliet.

As they enact the couple's courtship, Peachey and Rose look like androgynous mirror images of each other, even as they double up on other parts along with fellow cast members Robert Myles, Tamara Astor and Hannah Ellis. As with Merely's accompanying production of Twelfth Night, there's nothing to frighten the horses of traditionalism in any of this. What works in the show's favour more than anything in the company's bright and breathless rendering is its sheer enthusiasm and lack of fuss in a delivery ideal for schools parties looking for a way in to Shakespeare. As both Merely and their young audiences recognise, they're play-acting a teenage romance which goes wrong. It's not their fault, but it would probably never have lasted anyway.

The Herald, September 25th 2017

ends

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