Romeo and Juliet

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich There's no better love story than Romeo and Juliet. It's a pity the first time people tend to see it performed is when it crops up as a GSCE set book.

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

There's no better love story than Romeo and Juliet. It's a pity the first time people tend to see it performed is when it crops up as a GSCE set book. It's so much better than that. It has everything in it - immediate and blindingly real young love, vicious feuding families, street-fighting, suicide, murder, passion, timing so flawed that it leads the final tragedy and even reconcilation. Who could ask for anything more?

The New Wolsey's production sets itself some hurdles not usually faced by most companies. The play's been cut to 75 minutes and uses only five actors, the abridging done by Ellie Jones who also directs. I wouldn't necessarily want this to be the blueprint for staging all Shakespeare but Ellie Jones's concept works because of its inventiveness, pace and passion.

She's cut anything peripheral to the main story and also the odd character, without significant loss of the poetry. Using a small cast to play a range of characters adds to the sense of youth, that you're being told a story by ensemble of players who're bursting to tell it


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The two families, the Capulets and the Montagues are as bad as each other. So the actors wear two sets of clothes cleverly split down the middle. When they turn round they became members of the other family.

Becky Hurst has created an excellent set of drapes and ladders - two high wooden fixed stepladders, which also have wheels. So not only is there a ladder to the inevitable balcony, the structures can be quickly moved to form the backstreets, the family houses, and even a sepulchre. When the lovers are together at the top of a ladder it swirls slowly around cinematically, giving the impression of a camera circling a key scene.

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Mobility, energy and ingenuity are here in plenty. We see the cast dancing elegantly in the ballroom with dressed up mops. There's plenty of blood in the form of bright red cloths which burst out from where the dagger strikes home.

Even amidst all this ensemble playing, the two actors playing the star-crossed lovers make their impact. Finnian Hanlon (making his professional debut) and Louise Collins are an intense, passionate and attractive pairing. Their innocent sacrifice shines through the behaviour of warring families who know and care not what they do. As always, a good message for today.

Ivan Howlett

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