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Romeo puts the boot in

PUBLISHED: 12:41 02 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:26 25 August 2010

GRITTY: A scene  from Romeo and Juliet.

GRITTY: A scene from Romeo and Juliet.

PLASTIC-wrapped flowers tied to railings, police tape blowing between lampposts and groups of mourning teenagers - these alarmingly familiar images formed the basis of a school production of a 400-year-old love story.

PLASTIC-wrapped flowers tied to railings, police tape blowing between lampposts and groups of mourning teenagers - these alarmingly familiar images formed the basis of a school production of a 400-year-old love story.

The timing of Kidbrooke School's production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at Greenwich Theatre last week could not have been more poignant.

The knife-crime-themed production opened just weeks after the trial of Karl Bishop, who used two knives to murder Harry Potter actor Rob Knox last May.

The award-winning drama department used poignant snapshots of murder scenes as compelling reminders of London's deadly relationship with youth crime.

Even as the cast of 17 students bowed after their gala night last Thursday, Old Bailey jurors were going to bed ready to find Jake Fahri guilty of murdering Eltham schoolboy Jimmy Mizen the next day.

Yet the school did not shy away from the grim facets of youth crime, using faceless "hoodies" to gleefully embark on happy-slapping, muggings and stabbings throughout.

Following the school's success in winning the Fringe Report Award for Best Play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2008, the Bard's play was performed with impressive grittiness.

Director-teacher Lucy Cuthbertson ensured that her teenage cast of 13 to 19-year-olds were not only well rehearsed but also stunningly choreographed.

With fantastic energy, the cast leapt around stage with a fluidity that many professional actors would happily give their Equity card for.

Fight scenes drew gasps from the significantly hushed teenage audience while the Capulet ball - held in a dingy club where the DJ plays YMCA - sees some shapes cut of which Shakespeare would have been proud.

Although there's nothing new about doing Romeo and Juliet with mobile phones and hoodies, it was striking that the Kidbrooke students had made the play their own.

Tybalt (Liam Callanan) added a whole new street dimension to the Bard's work when he said "fetch me my rapier, boi", while Nurse (Billy Beswick) pulled the most laughs with her infectious giggling.

Meanwhile, Juliet's (Kay Payne) staunchly 'Saaf-London' accent contrasted wildly with Mercutio's (Andrew Montague-Cook) camp and precise enunciation.

The shrewd reflection the cast made on teenage stereotypes drew regular laughs from the crowd and made one cringe at the memory of Harry Enfield's Kevin and Perry.

However, despite all the comedy, the final note of the play was memorably dark. After the lights dimmed on the dead, star-crossed lovers and the applause faded, instead of the cast racing out for a bow a team of forensic police officers walked on stage.

Out came the police cordon, and as the white suits started tipping the corpses into body bags, the gravity of the play was driven home again.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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