TARA, the cross-cultural theatre group, does exactly that in The People’s Romeo, retelling Romeo and Juliet through Pala Gaan, the dynamic storytelling form popular in Bangladesh including traditional music and song, Bengali poetry and dance.
I have seen the tale of star-crossed lovers in many formats from tights and big sleeves to Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter but never as a bi-lingual, hip-twitching, sunglasses-wearing musical. But it does work on several levels.
Caitlin Thorburn proved a worthy linchpin both in translation, narration and in her many roles including Lord Montague, Friar and Tybalt. Her excellent ill-tempered pubescent Juliet brought an oft-overlooked and somewhat uncomfortable dimension to the tragedy particularly when played against Delwar Hossain Dilu’s older, knowing and womanising Romeo.
Experienced Pala Gaan performer Dilu’s snaky hips brought light relief to the fast-paced precis as Lady Capulet among others while the able Leesa Gazi was the stalwart nurse (and others) around whom the story revolves.
With singer/musician Sohini Alam ( a most beautiful haunting voice) and percissionist Swagata Biswas completing the troupe, the audience at The Drum Plymouth seemed on the whole to like what they experienced although there were those who didn’t return after the interval (which oddly placed at just 30 minutes in perhaps meant they hadn’t yet warmed into the blend of cultures).
I frankly waxed and waned finding the piece interesting, engaging and tedious by turns but nevertheless an interesting 85 minutes.