Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

Romeo & Juliet


Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet


Reviewed – 22nd July 2019



“this talented young company knows when to change gear and transport us to the essence of Shakespeare’s words and emotions”


Brighton, 1964. Whitsun weekend becomes a landmark for an explosion of youth identity during riots between the tribal subcultures of mods and rockers. Setting the mood for Exploding Whale’s new version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, it encapsulates the pent-up teenage energy and passion which simmer under the surface, ready to boil over in rage or jealousy or love. It may be a timeless tragedy, but this production pinpoints an era of adolescent unrest and disobedience, clearly identifiable in its music and fashion.

As we sit on the beach in deckchairs, the two families appear. Dressed as expected, the use of colour gives them an added stylish unity – rockers in jeans and leathers with a touch of bright red, mods in fashionable black and purple. Detailed lighting and sound (Louis Caro) punctuate scenes and enhance the ambience. The first half lends itself well to its new environment with the initial street fight and the Montagues gate-crashing the Capulet’s party (cue for music) but it takes a while to tune into certain updated roles due to the mixture of accents and unforgiving acoustics, especially in the round. As the narrative is not always clear, we are initially drawn to the more accessible personalities and by the time they are at the Capulet’s, eyes are drawn to dancing partners, Mercutio and the Nurse. However, this is followed by a beautifully powerful balcony scene which seals the play’s integrity and tone. In the second half, with some arresting and intrepid acting, it is the core of Shakespeare’s story which takes over from the 60s landscape until, towards the end, only the music reminds us where we are.

Ben Woodhall’s direction is an original but astute understanding of the script; there are novel takes on the characters, inventive staging and well-shaped dynamic flow. Teddy Morris plays a very real Romeo with a combination of sentiment and honesty which, coupled with Bebe Barry’s shining yet intense innocence as Juliet, gives a fresh and truly moving performance of a classic moment. In supporting roles, Billy Dunmore’s excellent portrayal as Mercutio is immediately charming as the fun best friend but equally bitter as he lies dying; Alex Harvey (Tybalt) brings a raw aggressive presence, Joe Bonfield gives Friar Laurence a contrasting solemnity and in a somewhat fishwife version of the Nurse, Lily Smith creates an interesting and vivid new persona.

With its own youthful energy, Exploding Whale succeeds in presenting an enjoyable and fully-fledged ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Yes, the show does have its foot-tapping moments as promised, but this talented young company knows when to change gear and transport us to the essence of Shakespeare’s words and emotions.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography courtesy Exploding Whale


Romeo and Juliet

Katzpace until 30th July 2019


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Obsession | ★★★ | June 2018
Let’s Get Lost | ★★★ | July 2018
Serve Cold | ★★ | August 2018
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | October 2018
Motherhood or Madness | ★★★ | November 2018
Specky Ginger C*nt | ★★½ | November 2018
Dead Reckoning | ★★½ | May 2019
Everything Today Is The Same | ★★★ | May 2019
Fight. Flight. Freeze. Fuck. | ★★★ | May 2019
You’re Dead Mate | ★★★★ | June 2019


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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

A Midsummer Nights Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

Reviewed – 25th June 2019



“this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct”


Stepping into a normally locked, private garden a few long days after the Summer Solstice is the perfect entry to Shakespeare’s fantastic interplay of human passions and fairy spells. Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens supplies a cluster of trees and shrubs, to be adorned with bunting and soft lighting and it’s not long before this Shakespeare in the Squares production transports you sufficiently to block out the Notting Hill noise beyond the hedge.

This is Tatty Hennessy’s third production with the company, her last being a 1970s Music Festival setting for As you Like It, an interpretation that played better than most because it followed the cultural, fashion and musical spirit of the work rather than indulging a historical theory. Indeed, the idea of a 1920s Midsummer Night’s Dream initially suggests some convoluted connection being made, between two eras of post-war fallout. Thankfully, it is again the decade’s cultural resonances that are reflected, with costume (Emma Lindsey) and music (Richard Baker) bringing out the play’s themes of attraction, love, magic and bacchanalia with effortless aptness. The aesthetics of burlesque and 1920s Music Hall are a fine fit for the lusts and jealousies of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena, just as suited to the Mechanicals’ ham-fisted style of entertainment and afford the fairy characters a louche, decadent manner whether carelessly casting spells or settling back with popcorn to enjoy the emotional carnage they’ve caused.

The casting for this troupe of players, most of whom must double up as musicians and singers as well as other characters, is a triumph of talent logistics. Paul Giddings trisects Theseus, Oberon and Quince, bringing a quizzical authority that plays differently but superbly to each. Gemma Barnett’s combination of delicacy and bravery works as well to fair Hermia as to the Fairy as to Snug’s hilariously pathetic lion. Yet the versatility comes with no loss of individual stamp as Hannah Sinclair Robinson elevates Helena to a point where she competes for notional title of Comedy Lead with James Tobin’s left eyebrow, which cocks winningly as it brings some drag queen insouciance to Puck.

Ensemble playing is hearty and energetic with the cast’s movement (Yarit Dor) reaching into and around the audience, enhanced by the cast’s ad libs and some witty design details (Emily Stuart with Eleanor Tipler). If sometimes laughs are pursued too ardently it’s an understandable side-effect of the show’s mission to help even a child in the back row enjoy Shakespeare.

Finding new ways to access Shakespeare never grows old and, aside from the Portaloos and sirens, this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by James Miller


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Various London Squares and Gardens until 11th July


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Fool Britannia | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | February 2019
The South Afreakins | ★★★★★ | The Space | February 2019
Tobacco Road | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2019
How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Butterfly Powder: A Very Modern Play | ★★★★ | Rosemary Branch Theatre | April 2019
The Fatal Eggs | ★★★★★ | Barons Court Theatre | April 2019
Tony’s Last Tape | ★★★★ | Omnibus Theatre | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | The Bunker | May 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2019


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