Photo © Jane Hobson

Juliet & Romeo Interview with Ben Duke

Ahead of its premiere on Valentines Day and subsequent London run, we asked Ben Duke all about Juliet & Romeo – A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage.

Is this the story of what might have happened had Romeo and Juliet lived?
– Yes.  When I watch Romeo and Juliet I am always hoping that their timings will be a little different and Juliet will wake up a few moments earlier.  I know she never will but I can’t help hoping for it.  The idea for this piece came from allowing myself to imagine that alternate version. In this work they’ve been together about 25 years.

Are they happy and how do they feel about each other?
– At the point that this piece is set they are in something of a marital crisis.  Basically they love each other and sometimes they wish the other one were dead.  The bloom of teenage romance has faded but it haunts them.

What inspired you to make it?
– A feeling that we aren’t that honest about relationships in our culture and that too many stories focus on how relationships start rather than how they continue.

Had you seen stage/film versions of the original before you made your piece?
– I have seen several versions.  Baz Lurhman’s film version came out at a time when I was particularly impressionable and is lodged in my memory.

Describe their characters
Romeo is in the middle of a mid-life crisis and so his character is trying to re-shape itself.  He is trying to let go of the passionate, over the top teenager he was and become a Man.  But he doesn’t have any clear idea what that Man should look like so he is in limbo.  Juliet is very attached to the extraordinary teenager she was and is finding the ordinariness of her current life a struggle.

Will the audience like them?
At times – if you had them round for dinner you would probably find them a little self obsessed.

Tell us about casting and working with Solène
Solene is someone I first worked with when I made a piece called ‘The Life and Times of Girl A’ on Scottish Dance Theatre in 2010.  She is a brilliant performer and someone I knew would be willing to spend time in the painful and ridiculous process that we went through.

And what do you hope audiences will take away with them after seeing the work?
A sense of realistic optimism about the state of their relationships – past, present or future.

Interview with Ben Duke, February 2018