Title: Romeo and Jude
Author: Marty Ross
Narrators: Owen Teale, Nick Moran, Matthew Tennyson
Publisher: Audible Studios
Release: 10th February 2016
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
A gritty reimagining of Shakespeare's famous tragedy - full of passion, emotion, scandal, disillusionment and family fallout.
A brand new modern-day audiobook adaptation of William Shakespeare's classic love story.
Romeo and Jude - starring Owen Teale (Game of Thrones), Matthew Tennyson (Pride), Nick Moran (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) and Ricky Norwood (EastEnders).
An amateur dramatics company in a suburban corner of nowhere. Two men with very different lives, brought together when cast in the roles of Romeo and Juliet - 'as Shakespeare would have it', in the words of their eccentric and enigmatic director. Though the elicit romance doesn’t only play out on the stage.
Against the odds, our heroes struggle to keep hold of each other and to keep a handle on real life. As the pressures, threats and expectations of their worlds draw in, per Shakespeare's original, the pithy banter from the first few scenes evaporates away to reveal a very real and present danger...and even tragedy.
Contains strong language and adult themes.
©2015 Audible Ltd. (P) 2015 Audible Ltd.
Yes, you read right! Not an audiobook but an audio play or dramatisation. Why am I reviewing it here? Well, I couldn’t resist listening to it and absolutely loved it which means a review is necessary. So if you’re a fan of those radio plays then you’re going to love this!
I think the first point to make here is that I loved every minute of this from the word go. With a dramatisation then you’re thrown into the action immediately and from there on in I was a goner. As there aren’t that many plays dealing with LGBT or M/M themes, especially romances, then I picked this up with no hesitation. This is about two men, Raymond and Jude, who get involved in a production of Romeo and Juliet at their local amateur theatrics society. The only thing is their own particular real life situation means that they are thrown into their own Romeo and Juliet drama off stage.
Although we don’t know the exact age of Raymond given the clues I’m guessing he must be around late forties. There’s enough to go on. A tragic character who is sleeping on his sister’s sofa after his recent divorce and the company he owns is going down the drain fast. A company that he took over from his parents out of a sense of duty. It was never what he really wanted to do with his life as a young man, but before he knows it life has caught up with him and he starts to ask where the time has gone. Struggling and fighting on from day to day, even though you can see your life going to hell all around you in a midlife handbasket.
Jude is living with his parents and is a scandal in the eyes of his father as he is openly gay. This of course is a huge deal for a tough mobster as he sees it as an insult to the name of his family and due to his own bigoted attitudes can’t accept his son for who he is. Instead he has a nephew who is nothing more than hired muscle the biggest one being between his ears. Jude is encouraged by his mother, with Raymond's help, to the local theatrical society and this is where all the trouble begins. The hired director Miranda decides to do it the traditional Shakespeare way and cast Jude in the role of Juliet and Raymond as Romeo. In Shakespeare's day this was normal. No women acted on stage and the female roles were played by men. What’s the problem? Well, we’re in middle class suburbia, big scandal! There are reputations to think of, appearance to be kep and having a guy in dress on a stage having to kiss another is just too radical.
This play deals with many themes. First and foremost the love that Raymond and Jude find in each other. But there’s more. Jude is young, early twenties and Raymond much older so there is an age gap. Should that really matter? Well no, not really but in the eyes of the bigots which is mainly Jude’s family this is insufferable. Also the fact that Raymond has such a hard time accepting the fact too. I think the older we get the more baggage we accumulate especially in the way of commitments and this stops any kind of spontaneity the young are known for. Raymond’s internal struggle was heart breaking to hear. The older we get the more realistic and pragmatic we become or do we? Maybe, but on the other hand we shut ourselves off to any kind of love being offered, especially from somoeone a lot younger. And even when it is there as plain as day you can’t really accept it as it feels like you shouldn’t. You're too old and resonsible to be falling in love like a teenager at this age. However, I’m sure these things happen, I would like to think so, but I do believe we're never to old to love and be loved. The question is are we brave enough to throw caution to the wind at a certain age? Break those midife shackles holding us down and live a little? Well, whether wished for or not Raymond embarks on the greatest adventure of his life.
Jude is younger and has grown up in a generation that is more open minded even if this doesn’t comes from his own family. He is confident, unapologetic for who he is and if anything sees the way he is as a way of provoking and rebelling against his father's attitudes. In the end due to Jude’s persistence, as he is besotted with Raymond, Raymond caves in and can no longer deny the feelings he also has for Jude. Jude's exuberance for life is intoxicating and completely infectious. His defiance of his family situation is to be marvelled at considering his father. He knows what he wants and is not afraid to live for the day and not to worry about tomorrow. But his wings are clipped by his family, can these two even think about having any kind of future together?
Now the proverbial hits the fan big style. Due to one little snitch telling tales Jude’s father goes ballistic and forces Raymond and Jude to run for their lives. Yes, their very lives! I would like to think that today these attitudes no longer exist in my little happy bubble of family and friends but unfortunately I’m sure the reality is probably very different for some even today. Oh the hopelessness of Raymond’s and Jude’s situation, two star crossed lovers literally on the run. There were some pretty gruesome situations that had me wincing and thinking, “Oh my God, this can’t be happening. They can’t get away with this!” Bashings and a little murder is nothing for Tyrone, Jude’s cousin. But he is only being used as a pawn by Jude’s father to do the dirty work that he doesn’t want to do. Here the bad guys are seriously mean. Gangsters and mobsters of the worst kind. Jude's father and Tyrone would give the Kray Twins a good run for their money. Can justice be served? Do our two lovers get their happy-ever-after? Well, you’ll have to listen for yourself.
This play is as tragic in many respects as Romeo and Juliet itself, especially the hopeless plight of the love between Raymond and Jude. I loved hearing the excerpts from Shakespeare’s play being used by Raymond and Jude to draw parallels between their situation and that of our ancient romantic heroes. But don’t worry there’s not a whole lot of original Shakespeare to contend with, it’s a modern play on a theme. A little like a gay version of West Side Story which was also based on Romeo and Juliet. This story evoked all kinds of emotions in me from pure rage over Jude’s father’s bigotry especially, although there is a whole lot of bigotry to contend with, to tears of joy and despair for the sweet love that Raymond and Jude find in each other’s arms. Also the play director, Miranda, your typical lovey that had me laughing with here acidic remarks while trying to direct the play. But also Miranda has a story to tell herself. The plot is intricate, full of twists and turns that will have your heart racing and your heart breaking for our heroes.
Even if you don’t do audiobooks you’ll not regret listening to this audio play. Don’t dally, buy it and enjoy!
Meet Marty Ross
Marty Ross is author of many BBC radio dramas: A Hundred Miles, A Breath From Other Planets, My Blue Piano, Rough Magick, Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk, Darker Side Of The Border, Catch My Breath, Ghost Zone, The Dead Of Fenwick Moor & Moyamensing. He is also author of Doctor Who audio dramas Night's Black Agents; The Lurkers At Sunlight's Edge, and Dark Shadows: Dress Me In Dark Dreams, nominated for a 2013 Scribes award. For the Wireless Theatre Company, he has written Medusa On The Beach, Blood And Stone, nominated for a 2012 Rondo Award, Redder Than Roses, The Woman On The Bridge & Crooker's Kingdom. He also performs as a live storyteller throughout Scotland & England at festivals and theatre venues large and small. Novel Aztec Love Song is published by Weathervane Press. Glasgow, Like A Stranger & Dances Sacred And Profane are available for Amazon Kindle. His agent is Richard Ireson at the Narrow Road Company. firstname.lastname@example.org