ShakeSoc Shakes Things Up: Redefining Love in a Gender-Swapped Adaptation

SCENE watched ShakeSoc’s Summer show: their rendition of Romeo & Juliet hosted at King’s Manor. 5 stars.

(Image: Ella Tomlin)

This adaptation of Romeo & Juliet was a refreshing take on a well versed classic. Directors Maddie Cox and Alice Pearson retold the infamous love story, being sympathetic to the Elizabethan script whilst incorporating gender-swaps centre stage.

In this adaptation of Romeo and Juilet, Romeo became Rosaline (Evie Gallagher), the female heir to the Montague family. This change significantly altered the course of the show and it was interesting to see how the story unfolded with a queer romance set in the 16th century. 

Further alterations included a matriarchal figure, Lady Montague (Renée Bel-Momodu), as head of the Montague family in place of the usual mother and father dynamic. 

The production also welcomed a fluid approach to the gender of characters in the wider cast, with male characters being portrayed by female presenting actors. An example of this was evident in the portrayal of Tybalt (Maddie Underhill), where the actor skillfully captured the essence of the character regardless of gender. 

The decision to alter the infamous death scene – Juliet waking up just before Romeo’s poison has taken effect – resulted in an incredibly unique and captivating ending.

The staging of the play was inspired. Setting the performance in the historic King’s Manor courtyard certainly added to the Shakespearean atmosphere. 

(Image: Ella Tomlin)

The production made use of the built-in props the venue had to offer, including the benches and the balcony in two of the most infamous and memorable scenes: Juliet’s (Morgan Gill) first speech to ‘Rosaline’ (‘Where for art thou?’), and the pair’s tragic death, which saw two benches joined to create the lovers’ tomb.

ShakeSoc gracefully set the scene; from the nuanced use of stage presence and props to the well timed costume changes and on stage augmentations. 

While the many moments of tragedy were convincing and emotive, the romance and comedy of the script also shone through. 

We made particular note of Mercutio (Lydia Hughes) who brilliantly intertwined a lighthearted, witty personality alongside the more sombre notes of the production. 

One thing which added to the whole experience was the inadvertent soundscape from the Minster bells, which added a layer of depth to the scenes which they backdropped. 

We commend ShakeSoc for consistently bringing fresh ideas to life whilst maintaining the integrity of household classics. The modern take on Shakespeare is warmly welcomed and their note of current culture is more than tasteful. 

To keep up to date with Shakesoc’s productions, or to get involved, visit @uoyshakesoc on Instagram.

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