Jacob Schott & Visceral Entertainment in association with Ticking Clock Theatre
Wilton's Music Hall
In Starcrossed, her reworking of Romeo and Juliet, Rachel Garnet provides a masterclass in adaptation.
There is always something rather interesting when a writer pushes the main protagonists of a well-known story to the sidelines, bringing minor characters to centre-stage imbuing them with depth, but rarely does it offer something as insightful and as thoughtfully created as this.
Borrowing freely from the original text and seamlessly adding new dialogue, Garnet's play puts the story of ill-fated love between two people into the hands of Tybalt and Mercutio and creates something that is deliciously recognisable and at the same time original.
The language has all the poetry of Romeo and Juliet¸ whilst the pared-down plot is of equal drama, carefully inflected with irony and comedy.
Unlike Romeo and Juliet, whose youth and naïvety makes them easily led and impetuous, Tybalt and Mercutio are older and have more agency—when they have that first kiss at the Capulet party, they know they consort with the enemy.
Their love is scary and unexpected, becoming a wave of sweet emotion powerful enough to sweep aside all the things that should keep them apart. This is love at its best.
As it grows, they change, becoming better people because of each other. Mercutio is forced to drop his bon viveur live-for-today clownishness as the stakes get higher, and Tybalt lowers his guard and challenges an identity bound up in armed service to the Capulets.
It would take a very hard-hearted person indeed not to wish a happy ending for them in spite of everything we know about the fate of star-crossed lovers. Their tragedy is Shakespearean, their love human.
Director Philip Wilson has done a great job at balancing the tenderness of their love and the heart-aching sadness of the story with the comedy which is largely provided by a wonderfully comic Gethin Alderman as The Player who takes all the roles aside from Connor Delves's charismatic and witty Mercutio and Tommy Sim’aan's endearing, gentle Tybalt.
They make Garnet's heroes utterly real and in a way they are: Mercutios and Tybalts are living across the world, hiding their love and tightrope walking the line between friends and enemies.
Starcrossed is true and timeless, both old and new, and amongst the best plays I have seen this year.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti