Pupils from Hellesdon High School and Acle Academy will perform alongside actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Pupils from Hellesdon High School and Acle Academy will perform alongside actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) when its 90-minute, adrenaline-charged production of Romeo & Juliet visits Norwich between Wednesday 14th and Saturday 17th February.

The latest in the RSC’s series of First Encounters with Shakespeare productions aimed at new and younger audiences, the show will be directed by Trybe House Theatre Artistic Director, Philip J Morris. Performed in Shakespeare’s original language, the show uses an abridged version of the script edited by Dramaturg, Robin Belfield. 

Young people from Hellesdon High School and Acle Academy will also have a number of opportunities to get involved in the production. In a reworking of the Prince of Verona’s role, ten young people from across Norwich will perform as members of a Prince’s counsel alongside the professional RSC actors. Together, the Prince and his counsel, will attempt to restore the peace whilst representing what might happen if young people were also the decision makers.

Students from Acle Academy will take part in a performance at the school on Wednesday 14th February and again at Norwich Playhouse on Saturday 17th February, whilst the Hellesdon High School students will take part in the performance at their school on Thursday 15th February and then at Norwich Playhouse on Friday 16th February. 

The production is part of a 12-week nationwide tour of schools and regional theatres.

Introducing a new Verona with a nod to old Italy, the modern-day costume and shape-shifting scenery will provide a dynamic, contemporary backdrop for the action. After a chance meeting at a gatecrashed party brings Romeo and Juliet together, the world around them melts away. Then, as they come to realise that a long-standing feud between their two families means they will never be allowed to stay together, they hatch a plan to escape the lives they were born to with tragic consequences.

Exploring the pressures of time, conformity and the intensity of adolescence, Morris’s production examines themes of innocence, indoctrination and ignorance. Following the success of last year’s sell-out First Encounters tour of Twelfth Night, First Encounters: Romeo & Juliet brings Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers up to date for a new generation of theatregoers.

Kerry Stanley Arnold, Head of Performing Arts at Hellesdon High School, said: "It's been such an exciting opportunity for our pupils to get to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and experience what a professional rehearsal and show process entails. Our hope is that we can continue to develop our relationship with the RSC to ensure exposure of the arts to our Hellesdon community, drawing in people who might never have been to the theatre, or who feel intimidated by seeing a Shakespeare play."

Commenting on the production, Director, Philip J Morris, said: “As relevant today as it was 400 years ago. The play’s enduring appeal lies in its subject matter; from the intoxication of first love to the tension between misguided allegiances and rebellion. The impulse of youth and pressure to choose sides leads to a senseless loss of life that is a familiar narrative today with knife-crime on the rise and record numbers of young people seeking support for their mental health. These are some of the most challenging but persistent issues of our time and we hope that our production can help shine a light on the need to engage in difficult but urgent conversations.”