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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Rubbish Romeo and Juliet

Rubbish Shakespeare Company

Genre: Children's Theatre, Classical and Shakespeare, Comedy, Family, Farce

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard


Low Down

Romeo and Juliet revealed in an entirely new light from yonder window in this full-on hour of murder, mystery and mayhem.


Theatre, they say, is all about suspension of disbelief and Rubbish Shakespeare invite us to do just that with their superbly crafted take on the Bard’s iconic love tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.  Whilst it’s an hour of theatre aimed squarely at the younger end of the age spectrum, there’s something in it for everyone, with mayhem, murder and mystery merely an hors d’ouevre that ushered in a main course of slapstick, farce, and top class commedia dell’arte which was capped off with the craziest of denouement that had the audience in hysterics.

Three actors greet us as we enter a cramped room that looks like (and is about the same size as) the average squash court.  No hiding your light under a bushel in this space so audience engagement will prove pivotal to this show’s success.

And how well this trio managed that from the outset, carefully ignoring the adults whilst working out which of the young people was up for a bit of banter and riffing.   The youngsters present (age range 4-12 I’d guess) needed no second bidding and, once engaged, were completely hooked throughout the hour to the point where the youngest was yelling out what would happen next and others were chiming in with stage and other directions which served to keep the trio on their toes as well as generating much unscripted hilarity.

It’s clever audience management which means the troupe have no problem in sticking faithfully to the original plot (which, let’s face it, has stood the test of time), delivered in the original language of the Bard (with occasional translational asides), ensuring that everyone in the room knows what’s going on at each point during a whirlwind hour of first class “edutainment”.

Three actors playing over a dozen roles has the potential to create complicated set and costume changes but these guys have adopted simplicity as their watchword with primary coloured T shirts to help with character identification coupled with an array of hats, beards, wigs, footballs and a blow up camp bed (don’t ask!) that ensures the pace rarely slackens and the action flows seamlessly from one scene to the next.

What about all that murdering though?  And Romeo and Juliet downing poison at the end?  How do you avoid the minefield that is the depiction of violence in children’s theatre in today’s world?  All I will say is that it’s handled with skill, aplomb, plenty of slapstick, a small flood and a few sausage rolls.

This is a high class piece of entertainment, whatever your age and knowledge (or lack thereof) of the Bard’s great works.   It is 100% accessible Shakespeare that demonstrably worked with this random cohort of a Fringe audience spanning the full age spectrum, including the obligatory grumpy tweeny (yep, even they were smiling by the end).

Rubbish Shakespeare know how to handle their audience, engaging them every couple of minutes in a way that was natural, seamless and effective.  They also ensured that the youngsters were happy to become part of the show on a number of occasions.  That those “volunteers” did so with confidence and conviction speaks volumes for the actors’ ability to completely demolish the proverbial fourth wall of the theatre.

This is a top quality show that I’d highly recommend.  The script and staging are tight and there’s pace and energy coupled with impeccable comic timing.  Suspend your disbelief.  Go and see it.  Even if it’s just you and your bus pass.  It’s theatre with something for everyone.