Mark Rylance backs youth theatre's ‘gender change' Romeo And Juliet adaptation

The play is being staged by Intermission Youth Theatre in west London.

Sir Mark Rylance has lent his support to a youth theatre’s reimagining of Shakespeare play Romeo And Juliet.

Intermission Youth Theatre’s production, titled Juliet And Romeo, is set in present-day London and the lines of the two main characters from the original love story have been swapped with each other.

The “streets are tense with the global pandemic and the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement”, according to a statement.

Sir Mark Rylance, left, and Intermission Youth Theatre artistic director Darren Raymond (Richard Jinman/PA)

The adaptation of the tragedy, which is being staged at the Chelsea Theatre in west London, “interweaves 400-year-old verse with urban dialogue to give new relevance to the Shakespeare canon”, it added.

Intermission Youth Theatre works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Sir Mark, who is a trustee of the company, said: “There is so much dissection and political pressure around Shakespeare these days, I find it hard sometimes to connect with my old love for the plays themselves.

“But when I listen to the sincere, vital playing of the young actors of Intermission Youth my love is reborn and I feel that old bard magic – that wonderful connection with the emotions and imagination of the genius of Shakespeare.”

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Sir Mark Rylance said ‘only young people can do justice to Romeo And Juliet’ (Ian West/PA)

He added: “The gender change is a revelation and works beautifully.

“Only young people can do justice to Romeo And Juliet.

“Prepare to be moved to laughter and tears. This is authentic stuff.”

Intermission Youth Theatre artistic director Darren Raymond added: “Transposing all of Juliet’s lines with Romeo’s and vice versa does something really interesting to this ancient text and brings fresh insight into this story with its themes of love, revenge, relationships and what it means to be a woman in this world.”

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