Her Romeo, Paprichoo’s latest production for the annual Bedfest, is a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s famous tragic romance that brings a fresh viewpoint to this well-known story.
The show opens with the cast of eight actors standing centre stage, when all turn to look at Benvolia (Olivia Thom), the protagonist of this version. The decision to focus on Benvolia initially seemed an unusual stylistic choice for Paprichoo to take with their latest production, as Benvolia is not the most obvious character to consider delving into. However, as the play went on it was clear that the aim is to focus on those left behind in a tragedy, making Benvolia the perfect candidate. The writing and re-working of Shakespeare’s original dialogue illuminates an original story from one already so well known.
What really magnifies this new take is the cast’s performances. Thom gives an enticing performance depicting Benvolia’s personal tragedy. The audience is shown a woman whose life full of light ultimately turns to darkness as that life slips from her grasp. The play begins with familial and loving interactions between Benvolia, Romeo (Yann Davies) and Mercutio (Fergus Head). This loving dynamic is maintained throughout the first half, with the characters holding hands and sharing a bed. Their pure intimacy is crucial in emphasising the tragedy of Benvolia as her world is ultimately destroyed by Mercutio’s death and the exile of Romeo.
In the second half, Benvolia turns to drugs to ease her pain and thus fails to inform Romeo of Juliet’s (Mizra Kara) faked death. This twist creates a whole new tragedy and meaning to this well-known story. The play ends just how it began, with the entire cast stood centre stage hauntingly repeating their individual lines. However, instead of the entire cast turning to Benvolia, this time only Romeo and Mercutio look at her. This writing choice poignantly depicts the guilt and pain of those left behind. It is clear that the tragedy will haunt “fair Verona” but particularly the lonely Benvolia. Thom manages to show the progression of how a pure individual can be darkened by tragedy, capturing a darkness that leaves the audience feeling sorry for those left to live with what happened.
Her Romeo is not the typical love story that Shakespeare originally depicted. Although it refers to Romeo and Juliet, the true tragic romance is that of the Montagues. This production encapsulates the emptiness left for the survivors and thus brings a whole new tragedy into the spotlight.