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'The Columbine shootings have influenced our Romeo and Juliet'

Fight director Kate Waters explains the way she approached staging the violence in Shakespeare's Globe's upcoming production of ''Romeo and Juliet''

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Edward Hogg (Romeo) Kirsty Bushell (Juliet) in rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet
© Robert Workman

Romeo and Juliet is about violence and how love tries to get through it. The fights change the course of events: if it wasn't for the death of Mercutio and Tybalt then none of the action would happen.

Our version of the play might feel different to most people's idea of it, but the violence is still central. It's not that the fights are great big numbers, it's just that they are central to the story. Doing a huge sword fight is nice, if it drives the story on, but if it doesn't then it's not much more than a showpiece and people stop believing in it. So the violence in this production isn't drawn out, it just says what it needs to say.

The director Daniel Kramer is very collaborative and he had a very clear vision for what he wanted. We're not setting it in Shakespeare's time, so the fighting is very different to what you might expect from a contemporary setting. It's great to get an opportunity to do something that isn't the standard rapier and dagger fight with guys in bloomers. There's all sorts of weapons in the show: we have baseball bats, we have guns, we have hand-to-hand stuff, we have boxing gloves.

(LtoR) Daniel Kramer (Director), Edward Hogg (Romeo) Kirsty Bushell (Juliet) and Kate Waters (Fight Director) in rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet
© Robert Workman

The Columbine shootings are a reference for us. That's because we are living in a world of conflict and terror and the fact that when a fuse ignites people can do terrible things. It's like violence is a feral animal instinct which is present in all of us, but we generally learn to suppress it. But I'm not sure if the audience would recognise the fact that the Columbine shootings have influenced us just from watching the play. It's more like something that was helpful while working on the piece. Certain moments of the violence feel very real, and other parts feel very stylised but even then there's an undertone of truth and reality to it.

The main space at the Globe can be quite awkward, you have these two great big pillars, and it's also quite a deep space. It's about making sure that the audience is connected to the piece and making sure you're not afraid of using the depth. The groundlings make the space a little interactive, and if I were using swords then I would have to think about them, as they lean over the front of the stage. But in this piece it's not a problem, although Daniel's staging does feature stuff that goes through the crowds, so it should feel quite exciting.

When you come and see it you might not even recognise the bits that are actually the fight director's work. And that's what I want - it's best when my work becomes fully integrated in the piece, the story and the characters.

By Kate Waters

Romeo and Juliet runs at Shakespeare's Globe until 9 July.