Review: Romeo and Juliet, Union Theatre

“I am in love with a man”

Productions of Romeo and Juliet are not uncommon in the SE1 postcode, especially ones full of direct address to the audience and scored with live music. But what is surprising that there’s a considerably more moving and engaging production of Shakespeare’s tragedy to be found at the Union Theatre than the current one in residence up the road at the Globe. It’s no less radical a reinterpretation – the two lovers are reconceived as gay footballers here – but where Andy Bewley’s production really succeeds is in capturing the exultant highs of heady teen romance and the troubling lows of battling a world that doesn’t accept you.

The move to the football field is lightly done as far as the text in concerned – a city divided by its football loyalties makes sense. The Capulets’ team are the red shirts of AC Verona whilst in the blue are the Montagues of Verona FC with Juliet and Romeo as the stars of their respective youth academy teams. And Joe M Mackenzie’s adaptation pays dividends in many respects – Romeo’s flirtation with Rosaline manifests itself as homoerotic touching so often seen on the football field, taunts – homophobic or otherwise – spark real anger across the terraces, gender-swapping Paris as a would-be WAG positions her perfectly as the beard Lady Capulet needs her to be. Continue reading “Review: Romeo and Juliet, Union Theatre”

Review: Gatsby, Union Theatre

“I’m too old to lie to myself”

Louis Armstrong used to sing ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ and unfortunately, Ruby in the Dust’s Gatsby hits the floor rather flat-flooted and singularly lacking in any discernible rhythm. The Roaring Twenties that characterise F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel The Great Gatsby were all about the freedom of jazz, the liberating release of the Charleston, the fizziness of gin rickeys but so little of that spirit is in evidence here, in a production intended to mark 10 years since this company opened their first show here at the Union. 

Bookwriter Linnie Reedman and composer and lyricist Joe Evans first adapted Gatsby a few years back and have retooled the show for this new venue but this new version struggles on a number of counts. The decision to make Jay Gatsby’s compadre Wolfshiem the focal narrating figure as opposed to the novel’s Nick Carraway could have worked if implemented more thoroughly but where as the latter is present at many of the key moments (and thus able to tell us about them), the former isn’t and so neither actor is able to make their character find a satisfactory role in the unfolding of this version of the tale. Continue reading “Review: Gatsby, Union Theatre”