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Laying their scene in Romford

PUBLISHED: 13:27 23 June 2009 | UPDATED: 13:16 11 August 2010

Georgina and Gareth as the star crossed lovers

Georgina and Gareth as the star crossed lovers

ROMEO and Juliet may be one of Shakespeare s best known plays but the Romford Summer Theatre brought a whole new dimension to the tragedy with a number of fresh actors placed in the beautiful surroundings of Raphael Park. The tale of the star crossed lov

ROMEO and Juliet may be one of Shakespeare's best known plays but the Romford Summer Theatre brought a whole new dimension to the tragedy with a number of fresh actors placed in the beautiful surroundings of Raphael Park.

The tale of the star crossed lovers is a departure from the group's usual take on the Bard's comedies, but the opening night on Thursday June 11 was smooth, gripping and most importantly faithful to Shakespeare's play.

Set in Verona, it begins with a chilling warning from the Duchess to the Capulets and the Montagues that anymore street brawls will lead to death.

The wheels are set in motion when the softly spoken Romeo Montague falls in love with the round faced Juliet, daughter of the Capulets.

Director Vernon Keeble-Watson argues that one of the reasons for choosing the tragedy was to bring younger actors into the group and they certainly delivered.

The host of young actors added an extra spark to the production, with Ben Cooke playing fiery Tybalt who tries to stop Romeo from intruding on the Capulet's ball; equally Tim Elman's take on Paris was just as refreshing.

Most importantly 17-year-old Gareth Balai brought a softer approach to the part of Romeo while Georgina Hayworth's Juliet was straight from a modern age with plenty of foot stamping and grunting refusals of marriage.

But by far it was the group's regulars that really stole the show; James Rimell, celebrating his appearances in all but a few of the 48 productions.

In this play he took on the mammoth role of Friar Laurence, the priest whose scheming to hide the marriage of Romeo and Juliet is undone when letters saying Juliet had taken a potion did not reach Romeo.

Dawn Cooke made the nurse into a talkative, mischievous chatter box and was hilarious to watch.

Similarly Jessica Randell gave an added edge to the part of Lady Capulet, making her highly flirtatious with an air of superiority.

Two good performances from Darren Matthews as Benvolio and Kevin O'Connor as Mercutio kept the action moving with pace, culminating in the death of Mercutio in a sword fight with Ben Cooke's Tybalt.

But it was impossible to separate the production from the stunning Raphael Park which added the backdrop of the natural world to Marion Churchill's simple but effective set design.

The intensity and suspense of the drama was also heightened by the racy soundtrack to the modern version tale, West Side Story.

Thus it may have been the Romford Summer Theatre's first time doing the Bard's tragedy but it was a real hit and most importantly the perfect entertainment for a summer's evening.

Romeo and Juliet is being performed until Saturday June 20 at 8pm tickets cost £8 and are on sale on a first come basis at the Rockery in Raphael Park.


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