Roles to die for

PUBLISHED: 17:38 02 June 2009 | UPDATED: 13:04 11 August 2010

AN INTEREST in drama is one thing, but for two young people, the chance to play the best known lovers in the world turned out to be quite a shock. Georgina Hayworth, 16 and Gareth Balai, 17, individually went to an audition for Romford Summer Theatre (RST

AN INTEREST in drama is one thing, but for two young people, the chance to play the best known lovers in the world turned out to be quite a shock.

Georgina Hayworth, 16 and Gareth Balai, 17, individually went to an audition for Romford Summer Theatre (RST) in February and came out with the lead roles as the 'Star crossed lovers' Romeo and Juliet.

The Frances Bardsley and St Edward's students spoke this week as the rehearsals for the annual Shakespeare play by RST in Raphael Park, reached the halfway stage.

"It has not really sunk yet," said Georgina, still ploughing through 11 GCSE's.

"A friend told me about the auditions and I went along hoping to get a small part.

"When the director said I would make a good Juliet, I could not speak at first."

The director is Vernon Keeble Watson, a popular award winning actor in his own right, as well as noted director.

"They both sold themselves at the audition," he said. "It is quite a daunting prospect to take on such iconic roles because almost everyone in the world either knows the part or has heard of the play.

"So it's quite a challenge for two young people to be thrust into the spotlight, and they are both doing very very well."

Romeo and Juliet is a departure in Shakespeare's works for the RST, now celebrating its 48th year of performing in Raphael Park.

The group was started by former Havering Chief Librarian Gordon Humby, and Con and Grant Chandler to perform a Shakespeare comedy each year.

Sadly Con passed away earlier this year, and the players have dedicated this production to her memory.

Vernon said: "Con was the RST, she did everything and organised us all to perfection.

"Her loss will be felt but we know she will be at every performance in the future."

RST normally concentrate on the Bard's comedies, but chose his best known work to perform in the heady environment of the Park.

However, it is not only Georgina who is learning lines as well as 11 GCSE subjects, Gareth Balai is well into his A levels.

"Theatre is something I always wanted to do," he said. "I went along to the auditions really to see if I could get small role. I was even prepared to carry a spear or something, but the director kept asking me to read Romeo.

"Then he told Georgina and I to do the kissing scene, which seeing as we have never met, was an experience.

"When he offered me Romeo, it was like 'oh my God' what have I done?"

The massive 600 plus lines Gareth took on was daunting, but as he said: "Vernon has cut them down, but it's still an awful lot."

The duo only met for the first time at the auditions though both have taken to the roles with enthusiasm.

Georgina says she is not like Juliet.

"I don't wear my heart on my sleeve like her, also there are some things she does that I would not," she said.

"But the more I get into her character I can see how she feels and the good thing about acting Juliet is I can express feelings and stamp my feet a lot, something I don't normally do."

The petulance of Juliet is one thing her fellow cast members have been enjoying for some weeks, though some who are parents with similar age daughters have been seen to let out a deep feeling sigh!

Similarly with Gareth. He said: "I can identify with Romeo as we are basically the same age.

"I don't fall in love at the drop of a hat like him, so that aspect of his character was a trifle difficult to deal with, but the more I get into his persona, the more I understand him.

"However, we are similar in that he has quite an innocent side to him, and a lot of the situations he faces I think I would deal with the same.

"At first I was a bit daunted at the prospect of the lead role, but now I am very happy with it.

"Shakespeare has always appealed to me, that's really why I went along to the audition.

"The way he writes, his verse and couplets are absolutely amazing and after 400 years still going strong, so it says a lot for his work.

"I think Georgina and I work very well and for both of us, it certainly has been quite an enjoyable experience."

Gareth is doing Geography, French and Theatre Studies for his A levels, and mixing performance and academia does not seem to faze the couple.

Romeo and Juliet is being performed over the two weeks covering Thursday June 11 to Saturday June 20, with a performances on each Thursday to Saturday starting at 8pm

The performances have again been sponsored by Romford Accountancy Company, Clemence, Hoar and Cummings who after an amalgamation are now known as CBHC.

Tickets are £8 and available on a first come basis at the Rockery at the far end of Raphael Park.

"Romeo and Juliet is perhaps one of the most performed of Shakespeare's plays," said Vernon.

"It's a simple love story but one that is true for every situation and time.

"We have a very strong cast and I think people will enjoy watching it particularly set among the ambience of Raphael Park under the stars.

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