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‘She’s the character that I wish I saw growing up’

PUBLISHED: 14:21 31 October 2018

Charlotte Josephine takes the role of Mercutio as Romeo and Juliet comes to the Barbican. Picture: Topher McGrillis

Charlotte Josephine takes the role of Mercutio as Romeo and Juliet comes to the Barbican. Picture: Topher McGrillis

Archant

Islington actor Charlotte Josephine is about to play two traditionally male roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions at the Barbican.

Charlotte Josephine (second from right), plays Bardolph in The Merry Wives of Windsor from December 7. Picture: Manuel HarlanCharlotte Josephine (second from right), plays Bardolph in The Merry Wives of Windsor from December 7. Picture: Manuel Harlan

There’s an energy and dynamism to Charlotte Josephine that comes across from the moment you start speaking to her.

Twenty-four hours after competing for her beloved Islington Boxing Club in a national championship bout, Josephine is back to the daily grind – finalising rehearsals for not one but two roles that she will play in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming productions at the Barbican.

Josephine plays Bardolph in The Merry Wives of Windsor from December 7 but first up is Romeo and Juliet, in which she takes the role of Mercutio starting on Friday.

“It’s quite full on, but it’s also amazing,” she tells me in (possibly her only) spare 15 minutes on Monday.

“This is a great opportunity to play two roles that are usually for men. I think the most important thing about having a female actor playing Mercutio is that it has giving women a chance to take up more space on stage.

“I feel like culturally women are taught to be pretty, passive and polite – Mercutio is none of those things. She is bold, feisty and sexy; she takes up all of the space and she breaks all of the rules of patriarchy.”

After a run of shows in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaption of Romeo and Juliet switches to the Barbican before it heads out on a national tour between January and March 2019.

Josephine hopes to inspire the next wave of female actors when she takes the stage from Friday.

“Playing Mercutio definitely feels like an honour,” she adds. “I want girls in the audience to look at me and think ‘she is taking up loads of space, being loud and proud, playing a big character who is telling a big story.’ If I can inspire one girl I would have done my job.

“All my role models were male but now it’s starting to change. It feels like more people of colour, women and LGBT are featuring, and that diversity is so important.”

With a running time of two hours and 23 minutes, the Company is seeking to inject a youthful and vibrant take on the story to make it easily accessible for a contemporary audience.

“I can’t wait for London to see this show. It was really well received in Stratford but I feel that it’s suited to London. Even though it was written hundreds of years ago it feels modern and current, like it could be happening now.

“There are so many questions about gender, race, class, all of those questions that are constantly bubbling up in London; it feels like its right there on stage. It’s a fast-paced, exciting story and the production is short – it should have you on the edge of your seat.”

Romeo and Juliet starts at the Barbican on Friday November 2. You can get tickets here.

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