Review ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Everyman Youth Theatre, Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival by Georgia Bevan

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Arguably William Shakespeare’s most timeless receives a twist from the Everyman Youth Theatre, and it’s another success from the always-strong ensemble. ‘Romeo & Juliet’ is well-crafted adaptation that brings out the undeniable talent in its young performers.

The show has some interesting technical ideas, despite its authentically Shakespearean dialogue, it frequently incorporates modern music into its storytelling. It’s all very ‘Romeo + Juliet’, the 1996 movie (which is absolutely fine by me), and it even has some of the same songs. The costuming has the actors all wearing these stained shirts, and almost all of them have something unique written on them. I did spend an inordinate amount of time while watching trying to read every shirt I could. Every character has their name written down, for the newcomers, and a thematically-relevant quote, which was actively rewarding for people like me who know the play well. It added a level of depth that was creatively executed. This applies to every character except for Romeo and Juliet themselves, their clothes are unstained by blood, they are pure. I appreciated the metaphor. The youth theatre productions always have some constraints to contend with, the stage itself is still set up for the festival’s ongoing production of ‘One Man Two Guvnors’, but I’m grateful for the little things like that which leaves it deftly directed, with a great level of immersion despite contrasting circumstances.

The two leads are especially convincing, Romeo (Sidney Evans) and Juliet (Gracie Booth) are totally dedicated to selling their star-crossed love with an impressive maturity. Another standout is Mercutio (Seb Rex), a hilarious scene-stealer. But the entire cast is ever-present and almost always on stage, letting every individual contribute to the overall feel. It is a true ensemble piece, giving every actor their time to shine. Additionally, the discipline and commitment of the children in this production added to its high quality, making for a complete experience well on-par with any older-age equivalent.

The high standard set by this production is nothing less than inspiring, director Sarah Bawler clearly understands the original play and, with the talented performers in tow, turns the popular play into a seamless performance that is efficient in its simplicity and impressive in its quality. The good work of the Everyman Youth Theatre pays off in another fantastic production.

‘Romeo & Juliet’ is at the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival, July 7th & July 21st.

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