When Romeo Met Juliet Review: Capulet Comprehensive
WHEN ROMEO MET JULIET: Friday 4th June, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME
“I think Shakespeare is gay” says a young man who has obviously given the subject some serious thought that morning. That wasn’t quite the answer that Paul Roseby was looking for.
The National Youth Theatre director is trying to persuade a group of kids from Coventry to give up their summer holiday to put together a high-calibre performance of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Quite wisely he has opted to recruit Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti to help him. The stars of Hustle will need all their guile and brass to entice these yoofs to fulfill their potential.
Roseby settles on two schools to provide his respective warring families, an inner city comprehensive and a Christian school in a wealthy suburb. “I’m hoping this will help the students get into the spirit of the play,” he says while marvelling at the brutally offensive graffitti on the wall of the inner city school’s maths block. Drawing the differences between the two groups is obviously rather easy, but this isn’t a sob story about class divide, it’s tribute to one of natures oldest struggles: getting kids to read Shakespeare.
Adrian Lester is as exhuberant as ever in his tutelage of the kids from the school on the estate and his passion for performing infects many of the pupils with a positive force that may well push back their horizons. Chakrabati has it much easier over in suburbia, most of the teenagers have some sort of performing arts experience – one of them even knows what an iambic pentameter is!
Watching the initial derision (especially in one school) fade to unbridalled enthusiasm is especially satisfying. Excellent feel-good television.