One thing clearly apparent in Juliet and her Romeo, the Bristol Old Vic interpretation of these famous romantics 60+ years on, is that there are very good reasons for strict Care Home guidelines. If Nurse and Friar had followed them they would have restrained Romeo when he was scampering round brandishing a fruit knife in a geriatric tantrum, not sent him on the run with a carrier bag of scooby-snacks. After gate-crashing a party and scoring a resident from the private ward, and then all that horseplay with a Zimmerframe and walkingstick, he was bound to get overexcited and do something silly like cushion Tybalt to death. Friar Lawrence (Tristan Sturrock, who excelled throughout) was keen to confess but the senior doctor counsels discretion in another smothered residential home scandal ripe for exposé.
Seriously, though… something rather grim happens when the ages are upended. The duty of care is more apparent, and becomes a stronger theme, without that seed of innocent hope. And the loss of youthful energy makes everything more bleak, despite the Last of Summer Wine comic elements: the gang aggression now is not reckless teenage swagger but a lifetime of malice dragged into dotage, and the lovers not brimming with the sap of passion for life itself but in the disconcerting grip of senile mania.
But despite innate anomalies in the re-envisaging of the plot and a disappointing lack of chemistry between the lovers, this is a courageous reworking of Shakespeare’s story with some unforgettable moments: Siân Phillips is luminous in every scene as Juliet. Dudley Sutton's Mercutio, even in a shell suit and crocs, makes the long Queen Mab speech mesmerising. The set perfectly evokes genteel but adamant control, and music movingly enhances this interpretation: Old Macdonald's Farm for the doddering dancers, while Juliet's head is filled with strains of Al Bowlley's 1930s melodies.
And mega-exciting to be at the opening night, especially with Rosie Finnegan who knew half the crowd from her front-of-house days. For the buzz alone, a five-star night.