Dik Ng and Tom Shortland with permission for Varsity

Throughout September, a company of Cambridge actors will perform Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet across the East Coast of the United States in a re-launch of the annual Cambridge American Stage Tour (CAST). Channelling the raw sensuality of first touch and the violent repercussions of fractured community, it is no surprise that Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays. This early tragedy is both timeless and amorphic, with an uncanny ability to seamlessly mould itself to every cultural climate. Audiences of this upcoming tour can expect a spectacular treat of lyrical beauty. This accomplished early preview showcases a dynamic cast of troubled youths and irresponsible elders, all precariously entangled in a searing, ruinous Verona.

“Kiko Gomersall and Emma Dawes are perfectly cast as the star-crossed lovers”

Kiko Gomersall and Emma Dawes are perfectly cast as the star-crossed lovers, embodying both the earnestness and crazed extremity of the titular characters. Gomersall was particularly bewitching as a haunted, depressed Romeo, granting the tragic hero a complex interiority I have rarely seen brought to the role. His Romeo was a man on the cusp of maturity, dangerously boundless in the pleasurable and painful place of not yet knowing oneself. As we watched him learn what his body could do, and how it could feel, Gomersall was the embodied centre of the performance, physically channelling the tidal wave of violent longing that pulsates throughout the tragedy.

Juliet is a radically unique heroine for the misogynistic era of the Renaissance. Shakespeare wholly respects this lonely teenage girl who is excited about her first kiss, for he constructs Juliet as a far more accomplished wordsmith than Romeo, with wide-ranging speeches of learned, semiotic theory as well as private, erotic fantasy. Dawes’ Juliet was intelligent and vulnerable, delivering intricate poetry with rhyming eloquence. Every cast member seemed to savour their chance to vividly paint Shakespeare’s literary landscape, making iconic lines ring anew in the mediaeval setting of The Round Church.

“Every cast member seemed to savour their chance to vividly paint Shakespeare’s literary landscape”

Jules Coyle injected unbridled chaos into the production as a suitably mercurial Mercutio, territorialising the stage with a ruthless masculinity. Coyle depicts an eminently physical character, playfully dancing and sparring for the duration of the performance before his masochistic craving for destruction transforms jest into blood. Due to the impressive fight choreography of Dominika Wiatrowska, I felt precarious as an audience member in the front-row, as brutal male rage continually overflowed and collapsed the illusory borders of the stage-space. Somehow, visceral violence felt as intimate as the play’s love scenes: the deathly skin-contact of men united in their pain was genuinely moving, and the climactic street brawl between Romeo, Tybalt, and Mercutio was an unexpected locus of quiet tenderness.


Mountain View

The Bacchae ‘entices you with the promise of yes’

Once this production exits The Round Church and commences its American tour, director Kitty Croft plans to transplant the Renaissance drama into a derelict, dystopian world, set in the year 2123. I am excited to see the culmination of Croft’s creative vision in the setting and costumes of the touring production, for the cast have already conjured a profound atmosphere of ruination and despair which future performances will inevitably develop. Whilst Croft’s touring production will be set in the distant, apocalyptic future, Gomersall and Dawes as Romeo and Juliet are cruelly deprived of time, never lingering in each other’s arms for more than a mere moment before being forcefully separated. Maybe love cannot conquer all in this production of menacing and distraught masculinity, which threatens to dissolve the community into bleak oblivion.

Romeo and Juliet played at the Round Church from Monday 19th to Tuesday 20th June, 2023, tours the United States in September, and returns to Cambridge at the ADC Theatre in October. More information here