Romeo and Julie, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Rachel and Seren Howells review a modern day twist on a classic as Gary Owen’s Romeo and Julie takes to the stage of Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre.

Romeo and Julie is a co-production with the National Theatre and as you walk into the Sherman Theatre’s auditorium this partnership is shown via the set and lighting.

Loosely based on the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, the play follows the story of Romeo an 18-year-old single dad with an alcoholic mother falling in love with Julie, a student who goes to Bro Edern, aspiring to study at Cambridge.

Going into the theatre and knowing Romeo and Julie would be about Splott, I had preconceived ideas ready for a gritty, depressing drama. When the show opens with Barb, Romeo’s mother, played by Catrin Aaron calling “Romy, Romy, Romeo,” I thought I knew where the show was going.  But by the end of that first scene, Callum Scott Howells (Romeo) had me falling in love with both his character and his attitude to life.

The attraction between both Romeo and Julie (Rosie Sheehy) is obvious from their first scene together. This grows as their story develops, enabling us to relate with the ups and downs of parenthood, while studying at the same time.

Paul Brennen and Anita Reynolds play Julie’s parents and although we don’t see much of them in the story, the scenes we do see them are touching and highlight the plight of Julie and how hard her decisions were.

Although the set is minimalistic, this enables the audience to focus on the actors’ performances which are absorbing. Creative use of movement and sound during transition scenes reveal more about each character as the audience soak up the intimacy of the story that pours from the stage.

Gary Owen’s script is both tender and moving in taking what could have been quite a rough and gritty story to a different place. Here, the author highlights the positive actions people can do when they must make hard decisions.

Romeo and Julie will break your heart, but also lift your spirits, a combination that makes great theatre!

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