QE’s production at this year’s Shakespeare Schools Festival was uncompromising and unflinching in its depiction of the brutal feud between the Montague and Capulet families that is at the heart of Romeo and Juliet.
Crispin Bonham-Carter, Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement), lauded the vivid depiction given by the School’s senior actors of the dark themes that pervade the perennially popular tragic tale set in the Italian city of Verona – including depression, street brawls, domestic violence, duelling and poisoning.
Yet he also praised Year 10’s Dhruv Pai (Romeo) and Year 12’s Anshul Nema (Juliet) for their “sensitive and intelligent portrayals of the ‘star-cross’d’ lovers” immortalised in the title of the play.
The 19-strong cast drawn from Years 10–13 travelled to Finchley’s Arts Depot to take part in the local performances for the national festival, run by the Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation. In addition, the boys put on three showings in Main School Hall, giving all of Years 10 and 11 the opportunity to see the play, which is part of the GCSE English syllabus.
“Two sullen gangs facing off… faces masked… hoodies up… suddenly a knife is drawn and all hell breaks loose! That was just the start of our brilliant senior drama production of Romeo and Juliet,” said Mr Bonham-Carter.
“The surrounding cast provided a wonderful supporting ensemble of raging fathers, desperate friends and loutish thugs. It would be churlish not to mention [Year 13’s] Keiaron Joseph’s outstanding Mercutio, who delivered one of the best ‘Queen Mab’ speeches* I’ve seen. That and [Year 12’s] Saim Khan’s convincingly thuggish Capulet – complete with gold necklace – almost stole the show!
“Special praise must go to the protagonists, Anshul Nema and Dhruv Pai: it can’t be easy falling in love in front of an audience of your school mates, but it is a credit to both the cast and the audiences how convincingly this was handled.
“All in all, a fantastic experience for all.”
Saim reflected afterwards on an “amazing experience” that encompassed making new friends across year groups, sharing funny moments in rehearsals when things went wrong, and getting to see a different side of people as they fully embraced their characters.
“Getting the chance to perform in front of all our friends and family at the Arts Depot, one of the best venues in Barnet, was a unique opportunity – a truly special day for all the cast.
“On a personal level, playing the part of Lord Capulet was fascinating, since I could explore the nuances in his character, and delve deeply into how quickly he turns from a caring, but slightly overbearing, father at the start of the play, to one who raised a hand to his own daughter towards the end of it.
“It also meant that I got to wear a rather flashy costume for the performance, complete with that large (sadly fake) gold chain!”
* In his speech, Mercutio teases his friend, Romeo, about an unrequited romantic infatuation for a girl called Rosaline, telling him that the mischief-making Mab, queen of the fairies in English folklore, has been infecting his dreams. Romeo later meets, and falls in love, with Juliet.
- Click on the thumbnail images below to scroll through photos from the production.