I hated school.

As someone who is flippant, easily bored and likes to challenge the way things are – an all boys catholic school, was never going to be the place for me to flourish.

It was made worse by the way the school categorised us by our likelihood to pass particular exams. So whilst I sat and passed my Maths GCSE a year early. For some reason a black dot was put against my name for either English or Science.

As we moved in to 4th Year (don’t ask me what that is in new money) to start our GCSEs, I was “left behind” to study single Science and hand-under-the-chin-to-count-the-syllables English. So no Physics, Biology or Chemistry for me.

The other way they penalised us, was to restrict the access to the text we read in English. Sure we read Of Mice and Men, but only because they assumed we would relate to the role of Lenny. What was definitely off the cards was Shakespeare. So no plays, no sonnets – no best of the Bard.

It didn’t really hold me back. Simply meant that I had to find my own way to the source text, in a variety of different ways.

Which is why, as I sat draped over the edge of the seating in the Amphitheatre at The Theatre Royal, Newcastle, I was amazed by how much of the Romeo and Juliet story I actually knew. Words danced with memories – no doubt from Baz Luhrmann or throw away lines.

I was envious of the multiple groups of GCSE and A’ Level students that filled the theatre. It took me till I was 43 to see this RSC performance live. I had 30 years on some of them. I hope they appreciate the opportunities they had. Even if they did hate it.

It wasn’t all for me. A fidgety Mercutio and a dead pan Benvolio lacked a little spark for the time they had on the stage. Matched with the rude boi, Tybalt, and this gangsta retelling of the story didn’t always hit the highs. Though when it did, even I caught the creasing of a cheek as a smile stretched across my lips.

The glorious ‘machine-gun’ delivery of a confused and at odds Juliet, magnified by the depth of the Scottish accent of the lead – sat perfectly against the imploring, but often chilled out Romeo at her feet.

The music, the lighting – the shadows of death and hate – captured against the starkness of the stage setting, were beautiful touches. They allowed the cast to glide between the acts and each other, effortlessly.

So thanks to school I am late to nights like last night. Maybe it is with thanks to my old school that I get to enjoy such performances more than I would have done at 14, where frills and ruffs would have been the order of the day.

At least I never did burn down the Science labs – but then, nor did I ever really feel at one with Lenny!

Chris Written by:

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