& Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until October 3, 2020

Photographer: Johan Persson.

& Juliet is a bold, assumption undermining and mind bending production. It starts with the premise that Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's neglected but determined wife, has ideas of her own about how one of his most famous tragedies should play out. She takes pen in hand and rewrites the plot giving Juliet a second chance to find empowerment and happiness. However, the struggle between the spouses/writers is just the start to the playing with expectations and conventions which this show delights in. Most musicals with pre-written songs simply showcase those pieces linked by a thin plot thread, but & Juliet recontextualises hits by artists such as Britney Spears and Katy Perry in a way that gives us a totally new perspective on the originals. The wonderful thing is that much of the audience who came along, perhaps just to hear these hits, appeared completely enthralled by the new readings of their familiar favourites. This is a very clever production which makes us see things we are familiar with and may love in a new way – whether it’s the values in Shakespeare's play or the songs of Max Martin. & Juliet challenges and seeks to expand both our artistic and social assumptions, and does so with relentless energy, great dancing and some outrageous puns that Shakespeare would have loved. Beneath a lot of silly fun and some post-modern literary tropes there is a serious engagement with issues of female empowerment, gender identity and being true to thine own self. The show has a first-rate cast who all rise to the occasion. Miriam-Teak Lee amazes as Juliet and her voice is electrifying. Cassidy Janson as Anne and Oliver Tompsett as Shakespeare bring some amazing energy and great comic timing to the party. David Bedella as Lance and Melanie La Barrie as Nurse are hilarious. Jordan Luke Gage is terrific as our dim Romeo, and Arun Blair-Mangat and Tim Mahendran are wonderful star-crossed lovers. This a thoroughly enjoyable production that becomes much more than the sum of some spectacularly diverse parts!

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆☆ 

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WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until October 3, 2020
Mon - Sat: 7:30 pm, Thu & Sat: 2:30 pm
Shaftesbury Theatre
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
http://www.shaftesburytheatre.com/shows/juliet/

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