For a 21st century audience Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is by now a tale as old as time: boy and girl meet, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl cannot have each other, boy and girl fight for their love, boy and girl both die as a result of a tragic miscommunication. There has been a myriad of reproductions of Romeo and Juliet since its first performance in 1597, over four hundred years ago, from Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Hollywood film to Taylor Swift’s 2008 song Love Story. Tackling Romeo and Juliet in a fresh, new and exciting way is no easy feat then, but Mermaids St Andrews’ production of the play does not shy away from the challenge (and, indeed, does not disappoint).
Directed by Gabrielle Hill-Smith and produced by Sarah Johnston, their version of this timeless love story is unique in their reimagining of Romeo as a woman. Why? As Kas Schroeder, Assistant Director states, ‘Shakespeare deserves to be enjoyed by all kinds of people and reclaiming it for the LGBTQ+ is absolutely amazing for representation in the arts.’ This is a progressive reproduction that modernises Shakespeare to centre around a homosexual romantic relationship, dismantling the idea that the ‘greatest love story of all time’ has to be about a man and a woman. True love is not prescriptive, and does not care about gender. The rewriting of Romeo from male to female in this play comes across as effortless, successfully avoiding any notes of ostentation or awkwardness.
The cast features an array of incredibly skilled actors and actresses, from the charismatic Mercutio whose buoyant movements radiate vitality, to the power and poise of Tybalt, Georgina’s character giving serious girl-boss energy. It is Aoife’s heartfelt rendition of Romeo, however, that steals the show, moving through the emotions of brooding and love-sick to fatally heartbroken teenager with seeming ease; she never breaks character and she is always believable.
Finally, it would be wrong to end this review without a word on the music. Featuring songs grounded in 21st century pop culture, from Labrinth’s Still Don’t Know My Name which plays during the couple’s first kiss, a nod to the popular 2019-22 teenage TV show Euphoria, to Hozier’s Take Me to Church in the wedding scene, these instantly recognisable and well-loved songs cement the production’s aim of assembling a play that resonates with a young, modern day audience. Ending the show with a minor key cover version of Taylor’s Love Story was enough to make any Gen Z’s heart melt.