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Romeo 'n' Juliet

DreamArts and Theatre Arts Project
Cockpit
(2002)

DreamArts is a youth charity based in Westminster that allows young people aged 11-24 the chance to create their own musicals and perform them in recognised theatres. Last year they played at The Westminster Theatre and The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden; and this year they are in The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone.

The tale of Romeo & Juliet is well known to all and there are many who are wary of allowing Shakespeare to be adapted into modern versions. This Hip-Hop, Soul-style version is a bit like West Side Story 2002. It is particularly impressive in that the cast have created the script, music and lyrics for the production.

It takes a little time to warm up as we are introduced to the Montey and Guncap Crews. These are streetwise rivals and ultimately you are quickly aware that tragedy cannot be too far away as tiny Romeo (Marvin Francis) is introduced, soon to be followed by his very beautiful Juliet.

The tensions between the two communities are very well developed by both the action and the chorus which consists of four of the youngest children.Pidor Tampa as Juliet is a real find. Director Graham Whitlock can be proud that he has discovered a 17-year-old who not only acts well but also has a great voice, even when suffering from a cold. It will be a major surprise if she does not make a success of the professional career that she has set her mind on. She makes a real contrast with her Romeo, head and shoulders shorter than she is, although his acting and voice more than make up for his stature.

The comedy was particularly provided by Doreen Agyeman and Keysha Hemmings as La Shawn and Anisha, a couple of hilarious, sassy sisters, and also by David Mumeni as a truly Shakespearean, comic Paris. The ensemble cast was filled with inspiring performances, in particular Syrita Curtin as the aspiring diva Rosayln, and Jummy Bolaji as the chilling Benz, the leader of the Monteycrew, whose blind ambition leads to his downfall.

Possibly the production would have been no worse had it been shorn of twenty minutes or so. Having said that, it is another great success for DreamArts and consolidates their position amongst the strongest youth arts groups in London.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher