‘Child-friendly Shakespeare show contained the f-word, adult jokes, and transgender themes’

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Dear Katie,

My wife and I were looking to book something special to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and we came across a fun-looking theater show called & Juliet, which is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. The theatre’s website said it was suitable for ages six and up, and my wife phoned the theater to double check whether it would be suitable for our girls, aged eight and 11. She was given reassurances, so we booked four seats.

A few minutes in, it became clear the show was not what we were expecting. There were some very adult themes explored, as well as colorful language that we didn’t feel comfortable about our young girls being exposed to.

After around 45 minutes we left the venue, with our daughters in floods of tears. We feel it has left a lasting impression on them. The last thing my elder daughter said to me when she went to bed that night was that she couldn’t get some of the things she saw and heard out of her head from her and wished she had n’t witnessed them.

I feel the producers of this show have no right to expose young children to this without their parents’ knowledge or consent. I have been in touch with the theater and the producers, who do not accept they have a duty of care to their customers or have misrepresented the sale of tickets to minors.

I feel very strongly that the producers and theater should be held to account so that no other families are put in this position.

–KM, via email

Dear reader,

The official page for & Juliet on the Shaftesbury Theater’s website describes the show as a “sensational journey of self-discovery”. The age range is described as “six-plus” and there are no specific warnings about adult themes, strong language or any other issues that might cause concern. But as an extra measure to check that the production was age appropriate, you say your wife phoned the theater to ask. Following this call you booked the tickets.

However, neither of you researched the production online beforehand. Had you done so, you would have discovered that the storyline was heavily centered around sexuality issues, with transgender themes as a prominent thread. You say you were shocked when the script contained references to sex and virginity, depictions of one-night stands and jokes about a man “riding his wife de él”. You say you also didn’t appreciate having to explain the phrase “man whore” to your 11-year-old when you got home.

While you say you’re no prude, and would have no qualifications about taking older children to see the show, you felt this content was far too mature for primary school age children.

The other thing that made you uncomfortable was foul language. You say f‑‑‑ was used once or twice, among other rude words you didn’t want your girls to hear. I haven’t seen the show but a couple of other reviews I came across online also complained about the use of the words f‑‑‑ and s‑‑‑ in relation to the age limit of six, raising questions about the show’s suitability.

You complained to the Shaftesbury Theatre, which passed your concerns on to Greene Light Stage, the production company. It replied to you saying that while the company “respects your opinion as to what is suitable for your children”, it presented as much information as possible about the production to enable people to make the best decisions for themselves.

However, as no warnings about adult content or strong language appear on the show’s official Shaftesbury Theater page, I find it hard to agree that it couldn’t have done more.

Greene Light Stage suggested it was up to you to have done more research about the show in advance. This really got your back up, causing you to write to me.

When I approached a representative of Greene Light Stage to ask how the show’s age limit had been set, they refused to say. They also refused to confirm which swear words featured in its script, whether other parents had complained about adult themes and if the age limit had recently been reduced from 12, as one online article seemed to say was the case.

You came to me because you felt this company was being unreasonable in not accepting that it had ruined your daughter’s birthday by mis-selling you this show. Greene Light Stage told you it respected your opinion, but its handling of your case leads me to question this.

If so, it needs to wake up. The bottom line is that productions that contain adult content and swearing ought to come with a warning to alert parents and this one did not.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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