New musical & Juliet is framing Shakespeare’s classic tragedy in a new light. Here’s how it’s reshaping the traditional narrative into something more progressive…
It’s probably Shakespeare’s best-known play, a fixture in classrooms and cinemas alike, but it’s fair to say that Romeo and Juliet isn’t short of a problem or two.
From its marriage-solves-everything logic to a route-one view of courtship (“I know we just met, but I think I love you more than literally anything else in the world”), there are definitely moments that can jar with modern audiences.
That’s why new musical & Juliet has taken one of the play’s most controversial moments, Juliet’s lovelorn suicide, as a jumping-off point to explore what might happen if Shakespeare had been persuaded to write a less explosive finale.
We’ve got three pairs of tickets to give away to the new show, so click here to be in with a chance of winning and then read on to find out the new production is putting a brand-new spin on the saga of star-crossed lovers…
1. Juliet survives
Well, this is the big one, isn’t it?
& Juliet hinges on the whole idea that Juliet’s suicide is a bit of an extreme way to wrap up the original play, particularly given the fact that she’s a teenager with her whole life ahead of her.
Within the narrative of the new play, it’s Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway who suggests altering the story to give Juliet a second chance at happiness.
As she points out, why should Juliet’s story end just because Romeo’s does?
After some cajoling, Shakespeare reluctantly agrees and Juliet is granted a reprieve, with the story following her on a new adventure to Paris.
2. Romeo gets a grilling
“I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
So says Romeo in the original play, but this time around it feels like he may have used that line a few times before.
Indeed, Juliet encounters a whole host of weeping young women at her beloved’s funeral, all of whom seem to have had a particularly close bond with our late hero.
Then when she reaches France, yet more of Romeo’s one-time conquests make their presence felt.
It all helps Juliet realise that she’d be better off focusing on herself than putting all her energy into another whirlwind romance.
3. Marriage isn’t always the answer
If there’s one plot point Shakespeare simply loves, it’s a well-timed wedding bringing things to a neat conclusion.
However, in & Juliet, Anne Hathaway calls him out on it, suggesting that marriage isn’t always a fix-everything solution.
In fact, she goes as far as to suggest that their own marriage has stripped her of some of her own character – in effect reducing her to a mere ‘wife’, as opposed to a rounded person with a distinct identity.
With that in mind, this new version of Juliet is far more self-aware, and goes to great pains to avoid the same mistakes she’s made in the past.
Given that Juliet spends a good chunk of the original play trying to swerve her parents’ plans to marry her off, it’s refreshing to see her take even more ownership of her destiny in this new story.
4. The female characters drive the plot
Juliet might share top billing with Romeo in the original play, but in reality, the action is driven almost exclusively by the male characters.
From Mercutio’s clash with Tybalt to the Priest’s frankly unhinged fake-your-own-death strategy, most of the key plot points in Romeo and Juliet are engineered by its male cast.
This time around, however, the women are squarely in the driving seat, with a whole cast of supporting female characters introduced to the action in the form of Juliet’s friendship circle.
Even the Nurse (very much a two-dimensional plot device in the original) gets her own storyline here, as she sets about rekindling a love affair from the past.
Factor in the aforementioned Anne Hathaway, and you’ve got a great company of women telling a brand new story.
Featuring a banger-filled soundtrack of feelgood pop hits from the likes of Britney, Katy Perry and Backstreet Boys, & Juliet begins performances in London at The Shaftesbury Theatre on Saturday 2 November. Tickets are available now. #RomeoWho