With alumni including Academy- and Olivier-award winner Dame Helen Mirren, James Bond’s Daniel Craig and Downton Abbey‘s Golden Globe nominated Michelle Dockery, the National Youth theatre has a reputation for training some of the most successful and talented performers of the past 50 years. It is also a great way for budding thespians to hone their craft without paying the fees required to attend a London drama school, giving them an opportunity that otherwise may have been missed.
The NYT is currently running a ‘coming of age’ theme with a whole host of ambitious treats including Pope Joan, Tory Boyz, Prince of Denmark and Romeo and Juliet, the latter three of which are presently playing at London’s Ambassador’s theatre, usual home to Stomp.
Romeo and Juliet, as we all know, has been interpreted on stage about 5,000,003 times in countless languages and using many a historical back-drop, most of which are relatively contemporary ones. Is it controversial to point out that though it is indeed a beautiful and heartbreaking story, we’re perhaps a little sick of it now?
This production is an adaptation of Lolita Chakrabarti’s TV documentary When Romeo Met Juliet and directed by Paul Roseby. Whilst impressive, it doesn’t really feel as cutting edge as perhaps it thinks it is. Set in 1980s Camden, the set is an explosion of band posters and rich tones albeit with a raw and industrial feel, perfect for a youth subculture seemingly ever on the edge, and costumes (headed by Richard Gellar) are simply everything you imagine when thinking of the decade: all Boy George extravagance, New Romantic too cool for school, and acres of leather and bleached denim. The masquerade ball scene sees the cast don Margaret Thatcher masks and this, whilst predictable, is still mildly effective and, aesthetically, pretty eerie. The use of the backstage area is a clever and inventive one as cast members sing and play through some 80s classics, visible through metal grating. Their voices too are of a high (yet perhaps not completely polished) standard.
On the whole the actors are evidently very talented. Performances feel real and they’re comfortable with bringing humour to the table (though some of that could just have been down to the gaggle of school children in the audience finding the romantic scenes hilarious…) especially making the Friar Caribbean with a strong accent, much to the delight of said children and their teachers. Niall McNamee’s Romeo and Aruhan Galieva’s Juliet are fresh, and Galieva especially puts up a spirited fight against the conforms of her strict and ill-tempered father. Abigail Rose’s Nurse marries a comical swagger with plenty of tenderness and motherly care towards the young Juliet. Her performance is a remarkable one that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
This is a definite must see, especially for those wanting to see some unripe talent with bags of potential. The stars of tomorrow? They might well be.
Romeo and Juliet is playing at the Ambassadors theatre until 29 December 2013. For more information and tickets, see the National Youth Theatre’s website.