IT may still say Verona in the text, but Hayley Grindle's grim construction of bare, ugly concrete and metal otherwise known as "an epic northern landscape" is a Yorkshire industrial city in all but name.
“Our Romeo and Juliet is a love story for 2017 – set in a pulsating, contemporary city where two communities live side-by-side, divided by hatred," says Amy Leech, introducing her first production as the Playhouse's new associate director. "Our staging of this 400-year old play asks the audience to reflect on how we live together in the present moment; particularly as the UK goes about exiting the European Union."
The romantic tragedy of teen lovers Romeo (Dan Parr) and Juliet (Tessa Parr) is played out against the Capulets and the Montagues fighting just because they have always fought; it's what they do. Tybalt (Tachia Newall) and Paris (Ciaran Kellgren) keep in shape by sparring in the Capulets' boxing gym; when the Prince (Jeff Alexander) issues another of his proclamations, the young don't even listen, their heads buried in their mobile phones instead.
At the finale, Leech even dispenses with the token handshake of the family heads; instead the tale of woe has its uplifting moment a la La La Land, as Romeo and Juliet are freed from their deathbed and take to the heights, floating above the bigoted world, united forever in love (unlike La La Land, spoiler alert).
Leech has made a bristling, bravura production with and for young people, using a Young People's Company in ensemble scenes to enact the endless enmity. One journalistic colleague, reflecting later, said the show had made them feel old. Good! Like pop music, Romeo & Juliet should do that. Until prejudices finally wither and die – and that is is unlikely, it would seem, in a world growing more angry and divided – then young love against the tide will crash and burn.
Leech's Romeo and Juliet are young indeed; Dan Parr, last seen at the Playhouse as Billy in Leech's Kes, dances like a loon dressed in star-shaped fancy dress at the Capulet ball; Tessa Parr is a truly teen Juliet, taking off her party shoes at the earliest opportunity because she is yet to master walking in them. Both deliver Shakespeare's dialogue with a fresh vitality that is thrilling and urgent, especially in their monologues.
Leech makes great choices throughout: Friar Laurence (Olwen May) becoming a female Reverend reflects the changing times in the Church; the flowers tied to the concrete to mark deaths is a familiar sight today; Romeo's poison in a plastic drinks bottle is so painful to consume he can't even splutter "true apothecary" before dying.
Oh, and Mercutio is now a tomboy, kick-ass woman, a role relished by Elexi Walker, no stranger to re-writing roles and rules after her Doctor Watson in a dress and a moustache in Sherlock Holmes at York Theatre Royal last summer.
Romeo & Juliet, Quarry Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until Saturday. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at wyp.org.uk