A poster for the R4J production

A modern version of Romeo and Juliet gets underway next week which hopes to warn audiences of the dangers of knife crime and the pressures facing young people today. R4J is a Chelmsford City Theatres production which is part of a programme of events created for the Knife Angel’s visit to the city this month.

The play is a retelling of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy about young people, which will update its themes of youth violence, gang culture and forbidden love for a modern audience. Most performances will be staged outdoors in Central Park in front of the Knife Angel, and it’s free to attend.

A relevant story for today

Although the story of Romeo and Juliet is more than 400 years old, the cast are confident that this production will resonate with audiences today. Eli London who plays Romeo says many of the problems faced by young people in 16th century Verona are still part of life in 21st century Essex.

“The tragic story of Romeo and Juliet can often seem quite far removed from how we live now, but the immediacy of the problem of knife crime means that many of its themes are becoming more and more relevant each day. The idea of putting on this play in front of such an imposing and heart-breaking sculpture makes it even more poignant for me.”

Eli London, Actor
Actors playing Romeo and Juliet stand in front of the Knife Angel

The Knife Angel is more than a backdrop

The Monument Against Violence and Aggression known as the Knife Angel is in Central Park for a month and visitors from across Essex have been coming to Chelmsford to see this powerful and thought-provoking sculpture. The travelling artwork, which was created by the British Ironwork Centre and sculptor Alfie Bradley, is forged from thousands of blades collected by police forces across the country. Actor Alexandra Duffy who plays Juliet says the Knife Angel is much more than just a dramatic backdrop for the production.

“Performances in front of that amazing sculpture carry so much meaning and its presence is a constant reminder of the wider message that tragedies can easily unfold when disputes are settled with violence.”

Alexandra Duffy, Actor

R4J Take ACTion workshops in schools

R4J is also travelling to schools across Chelmsford next week with performances to pupils and free Arts Council funded ‘R4J Take ACTion’ workshops delivered by Keep it 100 founder Luisa Di Marco and the play’s director Mike Dodsworth. The sessions will educate students on the dangers of knife crime and gang violence and give participants some of the tools to help themselves if faced with a difficult scenario or dilemma.

How to see a performance

Public performances of R4J begin on Tuesday 21 September with a performance in the Cramphorn Studio. You can catch it in front of the Knife Angel in Central Park between Wednesday 22 and Saturday 25 September and there’s also a performance planned for Chelmsford high street. For more information about how to watch R4J, go to the Chelmsford City Theatres website. To find out more about Knife Angel Chelmsford, visit https://www.keepit100essex.com/knife-angel-chelmsford

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