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  • Xi Ye

Review: Romeo and Juliet

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Valentines Park


Rosie Ward

Co Artistic Directors/producers

Rosie Ward, Ursula Early


George Alexander

Review {AD-Invited review}

Featuring the famous star-crossed lovers, this version of Romeo and Juliet retells the feud between the Capulet and the Montague families in the city of Verona, and how this serves as a catalyst to bring together the lovers and also, their ultimate demise.

Running throughout the summer in various locations around East London, the East London Shakespeare Festival (ELSF) creates a friendly and informal environment for children and young people, and their family to be submerged in the world of Shakespeare. Moving away from the more traditional indoor theatre settings and the way in which the play is performed, the cast and creatives make use of simple setups, a level of modern speech and songs, and breaking the fourth wall to engage with the audience. In addition, the cast members often make use of the audience’s belongings to add elements of comedy to the show, an aspect that is particularly well received by the younger members of the audience.

This production features Nick Hardie and Emilia Harrild as the titular characters, both of whom are as passionate and impulsive as depicted in the traditional settings. However, Hardie and Harrild also introduce new element and uniqueness to these characters. Romeo’s naivety is taken to a new level in this version, and perhaps can even come across as a little childish and comedic. This is prominently showcased when he tries to hide from Mercutio (Chris Knight). Juliet on the other hand is more brash and as unladylike as one could get, but in actuality close resembles a young girl’s demeanour, especially those in their early teens. Knight, playing the roles of Mercutio, Paris and Lord Montague, brings all three characters to life and attracted the audience’s attention with his bigger than life personality.

Performing in an outdoor space, and changing location every few days, pose a challenge for any theatre production. The sets are designed to be minimalistic and easily dismantled and reconstructed. However, this allows the creative team to capitalise on their surrounding environments and a level of improvisation from show to show, creating a more unique experience for the audience. On the night I attended, part of the show was battered by rain, although only briefly. While the audience could take shelter under an umbrella, the actors soldiered on despite the weather condition and must be commended on their professionalism.

Suffice to say that many, particularly young people, find the old English language daunting. However, the shift toward a more relaxed environment with elements that are aligned with the modern English structure, the ELSF team significantly reduced the entry barrier into the world of Shakespeare, and promises a fun and relaxed day out for adults and children alike.

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