Romeo and Juliet

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Red Rose Chain presents Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for this year’s Theatre in The Forest at Jimmy’s Farm.

The story of Romeo and Juliet has probably been performed a thousand different ways (probably more, in fairness) but this is a version you need to go and see – it really is unique and very special. 

Theatre In The Forest is exactly as you would expect: an outside performance amongst the trees. I was fortunate to see this performance on a beautiful evening which only added to the magic. This year’s chosen forest was at Jimmy’s Farm therefore walking to the theatre passing the camels and the meerkats added to the overall charm of the night. 

The actors were engaging with the audience from the moment of arrival, they were in character and chatting to us, meeting and greeting, making jokes, handing out programmes, setting the relaxed and friendly atmosphere for the performance. I was lucky enough to attend the gala night so we have a jazz band to keep us entertained for an hour before the performance.

Before the performance kicked off, the audience were split into the families of The Capulets (in red) and the Montagues (in blue) and in fairness I was so captivated by the performances I actually forgot.

The overall theme of this Red Rose Chain version is mods & rockers which helped bring a modern (ish) theme to the story and perfect for the warring families. Fun to witness a rocker speaking ‘Shakespearian’. 

This performance of Romeo and Juliet is difficult to describe. Shakespeare with 60s music entwined with the scenes with the actors singing and playing instruments. It was filled with random and unexpected pieces of joy. We had Punch and Judy, a trumpet, accordion, references to Spartacus, zombies (I think I got that reference correct), Jelly tots, a post box and so much more. It all delightfully enhanced the whole evening. 

The Shakespearian verse made you listen intently, there were no microphones and although you could hear everything you listened intently so you didn’t miss anything – you didn’t want to miss anything. The fun, relaxed atmosphere allowed the adults to be childlike as we joined in with the full audience participation.

The first half of the story was fun and engaging, of course the second half is more serious due to the deaths yet we were completely enthralled and connecting with all the characters, even though we know the story, we still want to know how this version was going to pan out and what surprises there would be along the way.

The half time break was long enough to use the very clean portaloos, the audience were in such a good mood, people were chatting, a bit of dancing to the music. There are drinks, toilet facilities and chairs…you have all you need in the forest.

As the sun was setting during the second half, the lights were coming on making it such a magical evening.

The most amazing aspect of the whole evening is there are 14 named characters in the play (and several unnamed characters) and only 6 actors! How they managed to portray everyone in a way that flowed and didn’t confuse was incredible. It was a physical performance and they all had so much energy as they raced about the forest. They were all fabulous, hats off to them: Ailis Duff, Jack Heydon, Darren Latham, Soroosh Lavasani, Emmy Rose, Luke Wilson. Well done.

A huge well done to Red Rose Chain and everyone involved in bringing this performance so us mortals to enjoy. It was brilliant. Thank you. 

Photo credit Bill Jackson

This review first appeared on GrapevineLIVE

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