This interpretation of the timeless Romeo and Juliet is set in 1880s Liverpool against the backdrop of Catholic /Protestant tensions. Produced and directed by Daniel Taylor, and adapted by Trisha Duffy, and staged at the Epstein Theatre, the production is running alongside a new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Opening with a brooding organ melody, the play successfully builds and atmosphere of growing dread with the simple stage scenery dominated by a large cut out Cross. The Cross is an ever present reminder of the divisions between the two communities which flare as the youthful passion of the leading characters erupts. The Liverpool accents of the largely local cast are a perfect compliment to the language, contrasting the mundane with the profound and bringing out the poetry and melody in both pieces of the drama’s jigsaw. Faye Griffiths performs as Juliet in her first major stage role and is convincingly wide eyed, whilst James Ledsham plays the bewitched Romeo. Also of note in the cast is Nick Wymer as Friar Lawrence encouraging the pair to “love moderately”. Daniel Taylor as Tybalt may be recognised by local theatre goers after playing Sammy in the touring production of Blood Brothers. Experienced West End star Chloe Taylor provides the heart and soul as The Nurse and Lenny Wood as the equally doomed Mercutio possesses a Beatle-esque charm.
The music in this production is particularly effective featuring a mournful solo cello, choral singing as well as scene featuring Irish dancing. At times it did seem to be competing with the actors, although the compact nature of the theatre makes up for this. Featuring some strong images and memorable scenes , the reimagining of the apothecary as a backstreet Manchester accented drug dealer was a stroke of genius and bought some laughter as the tragedy reached its climax
This 2 and a half hour production is an accessible piece of “Scouse Shakespeare” If you haven’t been to the Epstein theatre before give it a go, the community feel of the venue is apparent and theres plenty of interesting shows coming up.
**** (4 stars)
Romeo and Juliet runs until the 21st April. Tickets available here :
Pics: L1 photography