Modern look at ill fated lovers

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Romeo and Juliet - Octagon Theatre, Bolton

YOU can tell either Valentine’s Day is looming or GCSE exams are on their way when Romeo and Juliet rolls into town.

But there is nothing coy and romantic about David Thacker’s version.

With tracksuited, baseball bat wielding thugs, the menace of the Italian Mafia style Capulets’ and three grisly death scenes – any cuddling is more likely to be done in fear.

The intimate setting of the Octagon means for those seated directly around the stage, the action is sometimes a little too close for comfort. One elderly couple fled to the safety of higher levels after becoming almost embroiled in a chair throwing fracas before Mercutio’s death.

The industrial looking backdrop suits an energetic and physical performance. They appear from different entrances and exits and slice through the audience adding to the tension.

But Jade Anouka and David Ricardo Pearce cut rather traditional Romeo and Juliet figures. Despite wearing tracksuits in the introduction hinting at a more modern twist, it sticks quite faithfully to the upper class model of star crossed lovers who are fiery and hormone fuelled yet simpering and coy by turn.

Mercutio provides the laughter with saucy gestures, Lady Capulet is icy cold and her husband is typically overbearing and brutish.

Michelle Collins adds a twist as a rather hoarse sounding nurse who is more scatty and Sloaney than maternal and nurturing.

This production includes aspects of the text not often seen such the appearance of Romeo’s father and a larger role for Paris where he is slain in Juliet’s mausoleum.

A somewhat mawkish display of mourning at the discovery of Juliet’s death which includes all the family and Paris adds to the Mafia theme.

Romeo and Juliet continues Monday to Saturday until March 5.