“…The only man I love is the son of the only man I hate…”
Arriving at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre with its bunting and lights, was to me, a magical reminder that summer is here. We received the usual warm friendly welcome from the Storyhouse staff and volunteers. The pre-theatre area displays some lines from Britain’s greatest playwright.
The set was simple, yet effective. It was made to look like a 1950s Italian courtyard through use of scaffolding pipes and planks; the balcony area hiding a piano. The set had intricate details which became visible the more you looked. When you think this play has been around since 1597 and is still going strong, I had high expectations. I have to say that the outdoor performance, with a few musical twists, did not disappoint.
There were pockets of live music played by several cast members throughout the play. The music was well selected and vocals mesmerising. Many times the music created an ambience and worked to give many layers to the performance.
The show was well cast, as one has come to expect of the GPOAT shows. Samuel Awoyo played a lovable impulsive Romeo, who had the audience backing him from the start. Joelle Brabban’s Juliet was naïve and shy, yet passionate and decisive. Her modern DM wearing portrayal was just perfect.
All the characters gave good performances, each of them took on the characters as their true forms, with some modern twists and interpretations. ‘Benny’ Benvolio (Eddy Payne) and Mercutio (Haylie Jones) were a great double act. A standout performance for me (and I think I speak on behalf of the whole audience that night) was Nicola Blackman who made the most of the Nurse’s subversive humour and physical comedy, and was one of the strong points of the production. Her interactions with the audience were comedic but not over-the-top.
The first act was light and energetic, with some excellent fight choreography. The second act, where hope is lost and the dark tragedy really comes into its all, was a little slow in places for me. It’s such a sad story but was played well, and seeing it outside as the sun went down, made it all the more memorable. I would recommend going to see this or any other of the GPOAT performances this summer.
4 /5 stars