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Romeo and Juliet

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Four stars

It’s all kicking off down at the local adventure playground where rival gangs flirt, fight and hang out in the opening show of this year’s Bard in the Botanics season of outdoor Shakespeare plays, which this year falls under the Star Cross’d Lovers umbrella. Against a backdrop of a peace wall mural preaching the power of love, the local n’er-do-wells run riot by way of a series of square-goes that cause these youths to be more doomed than most.

Before all that, there’s a drag party round at the Capulets club-house that looks like something straight out of Rent, and should lead to some serious voguing. Such a streetwise parallel isn’t that far-fetched in Jennifer Dick’s contemporary production, which puts cross-dressing to the fore. Dylan Blore’s floppy-haired Romeo sports a non-binary black kilt, while Rebecca Robin’s Juliet clearly wears the trousers, a smarty-pants wherever she’s at.

Notably here, both of the lovers are from single parent families, leaving them and the assorted dysfunctional packs they run with to carve out their own androgynous identities without too much in the way of role-models. No wonder Esme Bayley’s gobby tomboy Mercutio comes a cropper at the hands of Michael Lorsong’s more traditionally macho Tybalt.

If Romeo’s happy to be with the girls, Juliet’s nurse is transformed here by Darren Brownlie into a gay best friend with angel wings who serenades the budding romance with post-punk torch songs while sporting a sparkly silver dress. More examples are set by Linda Duncan McLaughlin’s female vicar. If only silly self-absorbed Romeo hadn’t tried to obliterate his loss through a bad drug deal, both he and his true love might have lived to tell a different tale in a spiky and cracklingly inventive take on the original teenage dream.

The Herald, June 25th 2018

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