EVER since Shakespeare was brought kicking and screaming to Bristol’s Tobacco factory back in 2000, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory has year-on-year become ever more popular with audiences from the West Country and beyond.

This year’s fifteenth anniversary production has been directed by Polina Kalinina and certainly offers up an interesting contrast to mainstream interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, the most famous and tragic love story of them all.

Seen ‘in the round’, as it would have been in Shakespeare’s day, the Tobacco Factory audience are as close as you can get to being part of the action without actually being one of the actors.

Strength and passion run through the very veins of this production, from highly styled costumes of the late 1960s, right down to the spoken word itself. Minimal props are carefully chosen – such as the child’s roundabout, which provides a ready supply of weaponry for the violent gangs and also doubles up as a disco dance floor – and are never redundant.

There is little romance to be found in this interpretation; violence, lust and passion are the hard-edged emotions conveyed here, with an underlying sense of unease throughout. The wonderfully choreographed opening street battle between the Capulets and the Montagues sets the tone early on and is matched by other equally realistic confrontations between the members of these two warring clans as the story unfolds.

In fact, stage direction reminiscent of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ springs to mind, as the Montagues and the Capulets gather at the roundabout brandishing metal rods and taunting each other with vicious words from another era. Later, dancers at the grand ball are adorned with gas masks, and when Mercutio is slain, more blood abounds than in your average slasher flick.

The only respite from the unrest comes from the love scenes between Romeo and Juliet, although it is obvious that desire and lust have robbed the play of any romance that once was key to any love story.

Clever choreography, sound and lighting, together with a rocking soundtrack, help this slick production to be the dark brooding event that it is; although listen closely and it almost comes as a surprise to find that Shakespeare’s narrative remains virtually intact.

Credit must go to young Daisy Whalley for her portrayal of young Juliet and Paapa Essiedu's wonderful, impassioned Romeo, although my favourite character by far was Oliver Hoare's maniacally marvellous Mercutio. There are a couple of familiar faces, too, as Sally Oliver (Nurse) and Timothy Kightley (Capulet), whose terrific live performances prove that there is life beyond the small screen.

If you go to see one single play this year, make it SATTF’s Romeo and Juliet. You won’t be disappointed.