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Cheeky young lovers

This summer's Regent's Park production of Romeo and Juliet will be as up-to-date as possible, says Alex Sierz

Romeo and Juliet By William Shakespeare The Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park

After Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film version, Romeo and Juliet has been a firm favourite with young audiences. Director Dominic Hill has set the tragic tale of Verona's "star-cross'd lovers" in 1950s Italy, with its "peasant culture, heat and religion", because he wants "to emphasise both the play's nearness to us and its distance".

It has "an enormous relevance and accessibility," he says. "I want to make it as modern and as up-to-date as possible. One of the things we've discovered is just how playful, how cheeky and how funny the young lovers are."

As well as being a play about passion, it is also "more a refreshingly youthful play than a stodgy poetic one". Putting the play on in the open air also works well because "the first half is set outside, in the piazza and the street, while the second half has more interior scenes. So, as things get darker metaphorically, it's also getting darker literally - which makes the piece more intense."

But who's to blame for the tragedy? "In a word, everybody - and fate," he says. "It's a play in which, just as you think things will be all right, something else crops up. So, they get together, which is a problem because of family rivalries, then just as that almost gets sorted, Romeo kills Tybalt, which is another spanner in the works. And outside forces are constantly making the situation more and more impossible."

Romeo and Juliet are also both responsible, says Dominic Hill: "They dive into their love affair headlong without a thought. They never think where their relationship is leading or how it could work practically."

They are "blinkered by passion - and both of them grow up during the play, with Juliet developing faster than Romeo".

Now that might ring a bell with young audiences.

In rep until September 5Tel: 020 7486 243

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