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Romeo & Juliet | Wanstead Park

East London Shakespeare Festival braved the elements to present this fun and amusing modern adaptation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Wanstead Park on a particularly windy day would be frustrating to a general walker, now consider performing in it… I firstly want to commend the efforts of the cast and the one-man backstage crew for persevering and ensuring the show continued and the audience still had a fantastic time.

The playful direction (Rosie Ward) made for an entertaining show. Weaving between picnic blankets and running around the grassy field, the cast delivered a fun and immersive theatrical experience. Such great use of space, taking full advantage of their open venue. Evidently overacting to deliberately heighten the comedy, there were few moments where audience members were not laughing and it definitely hit the eyes of the target audience (families with young children). Mercutio’s (Chris Knight) crazed monologue was perhaps one of the funniest experiences, and Romeo’s (Nick Hardie) ‘what was in that can?’ comment caused a unanimous giggle.

Accessibility for a broad range of audience members was achieved. Prioritising the physical performance to combat the difficulties in comprehending the Shakespearean language, meant if you could not follow the story with ease, you were still able to value and enjoy the show. Despite this, I do think that they could have simplified some of the language further, considering the young audience members that they were performing to. Admittedly, I’m not the best with understanding Shakespeare so even I had to engage in the physical comedy more throughout.

The contemporary pop music was great for audience engagement and particularly worked well in the masquerade scenes. My favourite scene in the whole show was when everyone, including the audience, collectively sang Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’.

Juliet’s (Emilia Harrild) emotional episodes had real gut and angst encouraging you to deeply sympathise for the character, even if you didn't particularly agree with her logic and reasoning. Romeo lost all control and let his emotions fully overtake him and my heart felt sorry for him. From a technical perspective, these expressive closing scenes significantly stood out.

I do wish that being a ‘modern’ adaptation had been exploited further. However, this version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is still a loveable and entertaining show for when you want a theatre viewing to please all the family.

East London Shakespeare Festival takes their production of 'Romeo and Juliet' to other venues around the UK until mid-August. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.


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