Friday, 11 July 2014

Verona-on-Sea a.k.a Romeo and Juliet

For me, in my work-place of Barnard Castle, one of the secular highlights of the year is the annual presentation by the Castle Players of a Shakespearean play. Usually the Players perform one of William's comedies, but this year they have chosen to perform Romeo and Juliet, which, although it has comedy in certain parts of the story, is in the end a tragedy.

The action takes place on a large open grassed space behind the Bowes Museum, and as you can see there are 'groundlings' (Bring your own rug), just as in Shakespear's day. The rest of the audience is seated in two large mobile grandstands, named, of course, as the John Bowes Stand and the Josephine Bowes Stand.
There is always a warm-up performance by some of the actors while the public is finding their seats. The actor in the centre of the above photo struggled manfully with his dog - actually a toy dog on the end of a stick, which he controlled very well!

The play itself was performed in two unbroken parts, lasting an hour and a half each, with a break of half an hour for refreshments.  The action of the play was performed seamlessly; changes of Acts and Scenes was brought about by a dimming of lights and a bit of various pop songs from the 'Sixties, with departing actors removing their own props and incoming actors bringing theirs. This performance of Romeo and Juliet was dated as 1964, when as older readers will remember the Mods and Rockers were causing trouble in Brighton and other Channel resorts. Sometimes the 'stage' was full of Mods/Capulets and Rockers/Montagues, and sometimes a single actor filled the stage with his or her soliloquy. All the actors/actresses gave wonderful performances.
Juliet was well chosen, as was Romeo; Juliet is pictured here with her mother (Lady Capulet) and her nurse (Nurse).
Here we have the Rockerss chasing the Mods, while Benvolio and Mercutio have a chat on the right. Mercutio gave a splendid and athletic performance, doing falls and flips, before coming to a sticky end. After being stabbed, he 'fell' into the tethered boat and staggering to his feet with his hand and chest covered in blood (tomato sauce). The audience groaned with shock.

Friar John, who failed to pass on a letter containing details of the stratagem by which Romeo and Juliet could run away, was a dab hand at riding a 'sit-up-and-beg' bike around the stage and gave a Chaplinesque performance of trying to mount his bike. The 'death-sccene' was watched by a tense and silent audience - if only Romeo had received that letter and realised that Juliet was not really dead, then he would not have taken the poison, nor would Juliet have drunk the poison too!

But the Chief of Police was able to get Lords Capulet and Montague to shake hands and bring their enmity to an end.


The Curtain call ---