There is always a danger when abridging a work by Shakespeare that you may end up "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". However, in this skillfully condensed 35 minute adaptation, the young cast not only avoided this hazard but actually managed to bring a new perspective to a well-known plot.
The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is that they are both in the throes of young love, and love is not only a very powerful emotion it is also, as Shakespeare acknowledges elsewhere, a form of madness. Add to this the often overlooked fact that the whole story evolves over a very short period of time - on Sunday afternoon they do not even know each other but by Thursday evening they are both dead - and it becomes easy to see how they hurtle wildly to their own destruction. Both the power of the lovers' obsession and the speed of events were highlighted by this carefully constructed production.
Similarly the role of fate was underscored by the creation of a candlelit chorus of young girls which not only added poignancy but also emphasized the inevitability of events. The staging was superb, with powerful use of varying levels and excellent lighting to suggest a variety of venues. Thought too had been given to costume to ensure that although all were in modern dress both sides of the conflict looked sufficiently similar to be seen as two households "both alike in dignity" while being sufficiently different to be easily distinguishable when on stage. An added layer of commentary on the events came in the use of a haunting soundtrack - performed live - which was particularly effective.
Despite the complexities of text, all the cast delivered their lines with great conviction and clearly understood the nuances of the language so that it flowed well and, even though the text was truncated, the storyline was still easy to follow. This was particularly the case with the two lead actors, but could also be seen in lesser characters such as Juliet's Father, the Nurse, Benvolio and Friar Laurence, all of whom managed to bring a considerable degree of characterisation to their roles.
Finally a special commendation to all concerned in the enthusiastic and energetic fight scenes, these had clearly been well choreographed and reflected the amount of rehearsal time and effort which had gone into this production. Congratulations to all involved for their thought-provoking and memorable piece of theatre.