Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Redefining Juliet

"Throughout history women like us have never been cast as Juliet. The universal image of beauty does not include difference, and why shouldn't it?" 

Redefining Juliet is an attempt to challenge the notion of a 'conventional' female lead in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of star-crossed lovers.

Is the character of Juliet changed if played by actresses who would never normally be considered for the role? Can we accept as Juliet an actress with cerebral palsy who use a wheelchair, or a 6ft actress considered 'too tall' for a woman, or a dwarf actress, or a much fuller figured actress, or an actress who is deaf, or an actress with alopecia? Does our perceptions of the play change or do we just accept the 'difference' and appreciate the acting enough to truly invest in their characterisation and therefore we ultimately see beyond how someone looks? 

This fine and fascinating documentary follows rehearsals for creative director and person with CP Storme Toolis’s theatrical production which celebrates such diversity. The cameras capture the showcase which features six women playing Juliet as well as discussing their life experiences and what it is to be considered disabled or just 'different' in society in a frank and revealing manner. 

It is, as Storme says, Romeo and Juliet as you've never seen it before. It's a documentary that gives people permission to be themselves and I'd recommend this affirming documentary to anyone. Screened on BBC4 on Sunday as part of the BBC Shakespeare season, it is available to view now on the BBC iPlayer.

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