The whole story is based on a dispute between two families, so deeply embedded that its cause has lost all meaning. Despite this feud, the families’ only children fall for each other. Romeo and Juliet meet at a party and it is love at first sight. Their parents’ quarrel can’t change their decision to be together: They get married in secret. This could be a reason for both parties to reconcile. But their promise to each other is put to another test: Juliet is told that she must marry another man, Romeo is pushed into a fight with her cousin and becomes his murderer. Banishment follows. Very difficult circumstances. But nothing can discourage the lovers from wanting to be together. They are ready to cross the final frontier and make the most radical and irrevocable decision to be united forever.
The young couple’s stubborn insistence on being together no matter what has always been considered as extreme. During all ages, objections have been raised: that a single meeting is not a stable foundation for lifelong commitment. Or that society’s disapproval can amount to a never-ending stress test. Both objections are still valid. But especially the latter has become less prevalent in our liberal Western society. There are no longer any rules for marriage. In general, relationships are based on mutual attraction rather than on strategy.
The freedom to choose your partner has never been greater. And it has become an obstacle in itself. Or at least some of its manifestations have. Because quick and often digital matches are noncommittal and tend to end abruptly. The huge range of options makes it easy to compare. And so the other person is put under a microscope, examined as an object rather than as enchanting in their uniqueness. It is exactly this comparability that makes people exchangeable. And therefore this kind of love is relative. In this form, it creates the diametrical opposite to the love between Romeo and Juliet. They posit their love for each other as absolute. There is no room for anything else.
We live in a time where romantic love as a universal longing may still fill the cinemas but is often met with cynicism in real life. So what is it about Shakespeare’s most famous lovers that continues to enthral us? In all their radical self-abandonment, are Romeo and Juliet a progressive alternative concept for today?
Director Pia Richter will re-examine this classic play for Schauspiel Leipzig. Following “Ein Berg, viele”
and “Hotel Pink Lulu”
, this is her third production at the theatre. Pia Richter studied theatre and literature at LMU Munich before transferring to the directing course at Otto Falckenberg Schule. Her productions have taken her to theatres including Theater Regensburg, Landestheater Schwaben, Landestheater Tübingen and Theater Koblenz.