Local Shakespeare - The power of reimagining Shakespeare in your hometown

As part of the last Theatre Festival my school put on a production of Romeo and Juliet, however we decided not to take a traditional approach to our performance. As our school is situated on the edge of the New Forest on the south coast, we as students were all too familiar with the rivalry of Southampton and Portsmouth football clubs. Inspired by this modern feud we decided to switch out blood feuds for footballs, swords for beer cans and Elizabethan garb for team uniforms.

Shakespearean English is not always an easy language to understand, however setting the scene with something familiar helped everyone better understand the plot and develop their characters for the modern age. By considering our own modern translation and interpretation of the dialogue, characters emotions could be conveyed to the audience much more easily.

As we performed in Portsmouth, the setting felt even more apt. The moment distinctly red and blue kitted performers could be seen walking onto the stage, it was clear the audience could understand the familiar modern setting of the play, making it easier to digest the real plot amongst the complicated Shakespearean dialogue.

Doing a Shakespeare play is often a daunting prospect; however, it always ends with a gratifying, fun product. My top three tips for reimagining Shakespeare in your hometown are:

  • Chose a fun, well-known local landmark/person, such as feuding local football clubs.
  • Adapt your characters with the setting. My interpretation of the Nurse in our performance was that she was a tipsy, brash but well-meaning best friend to Juliet.
  • Have fun with it. Add snippets of modern language by changing setting names in the text. For example, we turned Friar Lawrence’s cell into the Merry Monk pub and the Friar into the publican Laurie.

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