Shakespeare dancing to a new tune

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare at Colchester Mercury until March 13.This is one not to be missed - a big adventure with the Bard's star-cross'd lovers, featuring an Argentinian tango orchestra that dominates the stage and a play pumped with action that owes a deal more to West Side Story than to ancient Verona.

David Henshall

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare at Colchester Mercury until March 13.

This is one not to be missed - a big adventure with the Bard's star-cross'd lovers, featuring an Argentinian tango orchestra that dominates the stage and a play pumped with action that owes a deal more to West Side Story than to ancient Verona.

But don't get me wrong. Shakespeare's poetry is all there, for the most part very well spoken, but this is a completely different, exciting take on his story and one that may not delight the purists.


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The Montague and Capulet gangs were always thugs but this lot look it, tattooed football yahoos just spoiling for a rumble with the other lot, noisy, boozy, rude, scary and when they fight they really mean it.

Romeo is a bit tough to take, a hoodie with a semi-shaved head and tufts on top - and not the sort that you'd expect a well-brought up girl to be smitten by at first glance. It also rankles a little when, at the gate-crashed party, Capulet refers to him as a gentleman and a well-governed youth.

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He grows on us however, even if his gear never seems quite right. Gus Gallagher throws himself into Romeo's rollercoaster of moods with gusto, you might say, and wins us over in the end. Maria Victoria Did Pace is his Juliet, slim, feisty and firery and a good match for him.

But it is the orchestra we are always aware of, accompanying the dance, underlining the humours with apt harmonies and sparking the tempers with fabulous discords. Members of the band rap in and out of the play and have their own amusing sort of gentle stand-up comedy show just before the interval. Significantly, they also get the biggest ovation in the curtain calls.

The Astillero orchestra - piano, string bass, cello, violin and two bandoneons (small accordions), all quite superb - very occasionally over-powers one or two of the individual moments of drama but this may be purposely done because, whether you know the play or not, you can be in no doubt what they are saying at these points.

This is Ed Hughes's baby, newborn after years of planning, and he plays Tybalt as well as directing. He's pulled together a cracking team with a very athletic Mercutio in Javier Alcina and a good Friar in Keith Dunphy. Ian Pirie is a frighteningly dominating Capulet and Shuna Snow has terrific fun with the nurse, smart and brilliantly bawdy by turns.

This is something quite new, with never a dull moment, often great fun and Shakespeare can take it.

David Henshall.

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