Lovers leap into the unknown

The Icelandic company, Vesturport, are putting Romeo and Juliet on trapezes and trampolines
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The Independent Culture

When Romeo declares to Juliet "With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls", no one assumes he means it literally. But in an inventive Icelandic production ofRomeo and Juliet at the Young Vic in London, no orchard wall is too high. Romeo is able to swing over the stage on wires for a tryst with his beloved in a show which fearlessly explores the devotion of the "star-cross'd" lovers using aerial acrobatics, .

Gisli Orn Gardarsson directs and takes the part of Romeo - a part he has always had his eye on. "I've always wanted to play Romeo in order to try out all those circus-inspired emotions. So I decided not to compromise, and direct it too," he admits.

"When you are in love it is a strange feeling. It takes on circus elements. At its peak you feel like you can climb a mountain. This is what drove me.

"You see, for me it is about how to play a man in love. And I find there is no need to act being in love when you can literally fly through the air."

Gardarsson is one of the founders of the Vesturport theatre company, which began in 2001. He is married to Nina Dogg Filippusdottir, who plays Juliet. "I got a cheap deal," he laughs. The couple met at drama school and went on to set up the companywith several other performers, including Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson, who plays Mercutio, and Olafur Darri Olafsson, who plays the nurse. They all had to learn new skills for the productions "A circus from Sweden taught us the technical details", he explains.

At one point, in what could be described as a bungee jump, Romeo, looking passionate and dangerous, drops seven metres held by silk tissue. "The difficult part is daring to let go and count on it being alright," says Gardarsson. Juliet's bedroom, meanwhile, is an aerial ring, made out of trampoline material, from where she can deliver her monologues while bouncing up and down.

The cast often burst into songs including "All of Me", "I Love Paris in the Springtime" and "Love is in the Air". "When you are so happy you have to sing," says Gardarsson. "It is very comical, until it becomes a tragedy."

There is also contemporary dance that leads into various circus skills. Actors stand on each other's shoulders, are thrown up in the air, and undertake more serious moves, such as when Romeo dances with the lifeless Juliet in his arms, believing her to be dead.

The acrobatics are often metaphors for travelling. When Mercutio and Romeo go to a party they use a trapeze; Balthasar uses a unicycle to go to Mantua to deliver the news of Juliet's death; and when Friar Laurencesays "they stumble that run fast", Romeo falls into a somersault as he leaves, over-excited that the friar will marry them. "Initially, we had to find all the solutions with little money," says Gardarsson. "I think it will be quite spectacular," he adds.

'Romeo and Juliet', Young Vic London SE1 (020-7928 6363; 26 September - 25 October