Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet


OVO at The Roman Theatre

ROMEO AND JULIET at OVO at The Roman Theatre


Romeo and Juliet

“This is a fine production for a summer’s evening”


It is the time for theatre to go into the outdoors and the annual smatterings of summer Shakespeares in parks and gardens around the country. There is no finer setting for this than amongst the Roman ruins in St Albans.

Co-directors Stephanie Allison and Amy Connery show Shakespeare’s relevance today with a bold reimagining of the script and by transferring the story to 1990s Belfast at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Live music from an onstage band – guitar, bass, violin – provide Irish-inspired tunes to help the mood (Musical Director Tommaso Cagnoni).

The set (Designer Simon Nicholas) is dominated by an iron derrick, daubed with graffiti and the words Peace by Piece. Stacks of boxes, pallets and sacks surround it, some marked helpfully with the word Belfast. This is a working dock and the lads set the scene by throwing sacks around before we see the first evidence of a city divided. A spunky Tybalt (Katie Hamilton) taunts the rather soft Benvolio (Lyle Fulton) and an eight-person rumble ensues. The fight is presented most effectively in the form of contemporary dance (Choreographer Felipe Pacheco), with shades of West Side Story. Lady Montague (Anna Macleod Franklin) lays down the law by talking of the Good Friday Agreement. Not in iambic pentameter but certainly within the spirit of the classic text.

We meet a sullen Romeo (Ryan Downey) clearly showing his depression, but even with the use of a head mic, some projection remains necessary, and Downey’s downcast mumbling sadly loses so much of his diction. This is to be a problem for much of the evening.

The Queen Mab story helps pick up the pace due to an energetic telling by Mercutio (Jenson Parker-Stone). Parker-Stone offers the performance of the night with fine singing and a spirit that lifts the production each time he is on stage. (What a shame his character gets killed off midway through the story.)

Romeo is broken out of his melancholy with one of the finest scenes – a three-part harmony rendition of Things Can Only Get Better – but the energy drops again for the Capulet’s party with little onstage movement. Even Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting and their sharing of the love sonnet doesn’t excite. Later the couple will perform a dumb show/slow dance (to The Cranberries poignant Zombie) as they spend their sole night together. Despite some good work from Francesca Eldred as Juliet, the couple together lack any sense of the joy of experiencing love for the first time. The spark isn’t there.

As the tragedy plays itself out, Ben Whitehead as the Friar, dressed in double denim, (Costumes Emma Lyth) exploits his inner Reverend Ian Paisley; Anna Macleod Franklin takes a second role as the totally loveable Nurse and beautifully sings Nanci Griffith’s I Would Bring You Ireland as the young lovers are married; and Faith Turner as Lady Capulet gives a fine performance with her argument with Juliet about marriage: the words truly coming from her heart not from the page.

This is a fine production for a summer’s evening. The use of popular music with adapted lyrics to illustrate the text works well – The Pogues’ Sally MacLennane is a fine example; the fight scenes are dramatically portrayed with energetic kicks and punches; and the adherence to much of the original words of Shakespeare, despite the transfer into modern day Northern Island, is praiseworthy. The production deserves to appeal to the widest audience.



Reviewed on 7th June 2023

by Phillip Money

Photography by Elliott Franks



Previously reviewed at this venue:


A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★ | May 2022

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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd June 2021



“The whole cast is excellent with thrilling ensemble scenes”


Love is in the air in Regent’s Park. Director Kimberley Sykes takes on Romeo and Juliet in the Open Air Theatre’s first production of the summer. And there are fewer finer places to experience the traditional coupling of English Summer and Outdoor Shakespeare than this superb park setting.

It is a fast-paced, energetic production. Sykes shaves off a bit of time – the opening chorus is gone and the ending is rethought – and races through the action without an interval.

The drama is set in a neglected Verona in need of urban regeneration with rubble-strewn streets and a fissure across the stage – the site of an earthquake eleven years previously. The Nurse (Emma Cunniffe) lays down a remembrance to her lost daughter Susan which is immediately desecrated by a gang of youths and hints at the violence to come.

The crack symbolises the division between the two families. On one side, the Capulets dressed in white; on the other the Montagues in black. It is an onstage human chess game, but this is speed chess and the pace is unrelenting. Sykes wants us to believe that the players take no time to think, no time to ponder on their next move. Decisions are rashly made and the consequences are tragic.

The backstage structure of four levels of scaffolding is further evidence of the decline of the city and provides great variety of height for the actors and, when the time comes, a sweat-inducing climb for Romeo to reach his Juliet’s bedroom. But this distance between the levels is not always a positive thing; conversations are stretched over too large a space and it is difficult to believe that the two lovers could have been struck down at first sight whilst masked and so extremely socially-distanced.

Subtle technical support means that every word of the text is heard and the actors are not required to over-project. The whole cast is excellent with thrilling ensemble scenes. Juliet (Isabel Adomakoh Young) catches the eye and when she smiles, it is pure sunshine. Romeo (Joel MacCormack) is a love-sick puppy, bounding up and down the stage, his softly spoken dialogue most convincing. Tybalt (Michelle Fox) is a chillingly cool Queen of Cats and her battle with Mercutio (Cavan Clarke) one of the standout scenes of the evening. Friar Lawrence (Peter Hamilton Dyer), with his wise words, is the master tactician and the sole participant in the story allowed to take his time.

There is humour in the production but the traditional comic elements of the Nurse are more downplayed than often. There is poignancy too: after each death, the actor stands – the spirit rising from the body – and observes the ongoing proceedings from afar, leaving an eerie empty space where their body had fallen.

Kimberley Sykes has intentionally created a breakneck speed production of this most told tale and some elements of the work are undoubtedly lost in this manner. But, outside in an English summer’s evening, I am happy to enjoy this reminder of Shakespeare’s great work – the love, the tragedy, the fights, the poetry – and leave a more ponderous undertaking of the text for the winter (indoors).



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Jane Hobson


Romeo and Juliet

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 24th July


Reviewed this year by Phillip:
The Money | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021
Trestle | ★★★ | Jack Studio Theatre | June 2021


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