Shakespeare’s star cross’d lovers are reimagined in this thoughtful adaptation of the world’s most romantic play at The Project this February.
The plays of William Shakespeare are thrown up time and time again for reinterpretation, to varied success: Ben Power has done something really unique in his reworking of Romeo and Juliet, taking the bard’s text and skillfully cutting and pasting to tell an entirely different story in which the couple lived and loved in to old age.
‘What if … Romeo and Juliet had lived and loved?’ read the posters – the pull, the lure. A Tender Thing doesn’t answer whether the Montagues or the Capulets came to accept the union of their children or whether Mercutio’s plague on both the houses was lifted. But it takes literature’s most devoted couple and explores the nature of loving, ageing, dying – as ultimately both plays are about love and death.
Most love stories are about young people, falling in love: Youth is beauty, beginnings theatrical. This, of course, isn’t the first time older love has been dealt with in drama, but it is, nonetheless, refreshing. Romeo (Owen Roe) makes tea and Juliet (Olwen Fouéré) makes the bed. They wear slippers, dressing gowns.
But age has not aged their love, and though the most romantic and well known of their proclamations initially sound surprising in the tongue of grown adults – “Did my heart love ’til now. Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” – they’re given new meaning in the maturity of the relationship.
In this version an elderly Romeo cares for an ailing Juliet and it’s a touching portrayal of the intimacies of loving and ageing. There is a scene where Romeo cleans Juliet in their bathroom which is tender and harrowing at the same time. It couldn’t fail to touch.
And though you know the inevitable outcome of this tale, you’ll feel for the characters as the play leads us to the somber demise of the couple by suicide.
This is not a play to simply enjoy, to entertain lightheartedly, but it is one to appreciate and respect. Roe and Fouéré are two skilled actors and their performances are remarkable, both studied but natural and emotive while controlled.
A Tender Thing runs from 23rd January until 15th February at the Project Arts Centre.
Project Arts Centre
39, East Essex Street
Tel: 01 881 9613
All images courtesy A Tender Thing Facebook page