REVIEW: Romeo And Juliet At Pendley Shakespeare Festival

The audience seating areas
The audience seating areas

It may be in its 63rd year, but Pendley’s popular Shakespeare Festival is not feeling tired or old and thoroughly deserves its reputation for staging imaginative interpretations of the Bard’s best work.

This week audiences were transported back to the swinging 60s – well the Italian city of Verona in that era – for an upbeat take (at least in the first half) on Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet.

The quirky festival, which comes complete with peacocks that roam around the gardens, has two covered seating stands for the audience.

Organisers joke that they won’t lose sleep if the actors get soggy!

Part of its appeal is the way it doesn’t take things too seriously – before the play started the announcer joked that it cost less than the £27 million Olympic opening ceremony and ‘we can’t promise the Queen or Daniel Craig either’.

The space was really well used – at times there is so much happening, during parties or fight scenes, it’s hard to know who to follow and where to look.

For the purists some of the interpretations of the characters may surprise. For example I am not sure how Mercutio could be any more outlandish and it amused me that the Nurse wanted to lie down and recover from a hangover.

The language used in the play was a mixture of Shakespearean text with modern interpretations, making it more accessible.

There was also an unexpected scene where a live band played a song by The Who, while singing the words in Italian.

Next week the gardens of the 1,000-year-old grounds are being converted into a scene from Victory Europe Day for a version of Much Ado About Nothing set during the Second World War.

If the play is as good as Romeo And Juliet then it is certainly worth watching.

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Review by Andrew Kay.