Modern twist on Romeo & Juliet pits Black Cats against Magpies

Brogan Gilbert and David Jackson as Romeo & Juliet.
Brogan Gilbert and David Jackson as Romeo & Juliet.

History’s most famous star-crossed lovers – with a modern Tyne/Wear twist – are coming to the South Tyneside stage.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is on its way to the Customs House, in South Shields, during the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The cast of Romeo & Juliet in rehearsals.

The cast of Romeo & Juliet in rehearsals.

The show has been given a new spin by theatre company Cranked Anvil, with the ruthless rivalry between the Capulets and Montagues replaced by the North East’s division of Newcastle and Sunderland fans.

Set in and around South Shields – which has an equal spread of both Magpies and Black Cats – Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers meet, fall instantly in love, and defy all the odds to be together until the end of their days – despite the “ancient grudge”caused by the colour of their shirts.

The play has been adapted by Cranked Anvil’s director Paul Dunn. He said: “I love the idea of putting a modern twist onto Shakespeare’s plays, and setting Romeo & Juliet locally, with a football theme to it, seemed a perfect idea for the story of two warring communities living in close proximity.

“It will hopefully resonate with all kinds of audiences, not just regular theatre-goers.”

The play features established local actors like Dunn, Steven Stobbs, and Wayne Miller, who is also the fight director on the project, as well as young new talent.

Paul added: “Our Romeo, David Jackson, has recently been offered places at three different drama schools and will be begin his professional training later this year, after he’s finished our Shakespeare season.

“And Brogan Gilbert, who plays Juliet, is just back from performing at the Globe Theatre in London as part of the theatre’s celebrations.

“So we’ve really got an excellent pedigree of actors to bring this story to life. It should be a great show.”

Romeo & Juliet is the first in a series of Shakespeare’s famous plays being staged by Cranked Anvil this year.

It calls at the Customs House on May 19. Tickets for the 7.45pm show cost from £8. To book, go to or call the box office on 0191 454 1234.

Romeo & Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. The playwright was born in 1564 and died 400 years ago today in 1616.

The show is also visiting the Alphabetti Theatre, in Newcastle, from April 26 to 29, and the Alun Armstrong Theatre, in Stanley, on April 30.

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