Romeo and Juliet is probably one of the World’s most performed plays; I have seen at least ten productions over the years – it remains timeless and if performed well, is a beautiful production. When I heard that Colab Theatre were tackling the piece in their own special way I just had to experience the production for myself!
Unlike other Colab productions, there is no tying up of people (well, not the audience/participants anyway) and no gun shots or crawling through dark corridors on your knees. However, there is a fair amount of clambering about, climbing ladders, shouting as loud as possible and an arm wrestle or two. If you do decide to go I suggest wearing flat shoes/trainers and trousers. Also, if you struggle with access then talk to the company before you book a ticket.
Turning up to the venue off Borough High Street, I was given a disclaimer to sign, agreeing that if I fell I wouldn’t sue them! I was then stamped as a Montague and walked through to the bar.
In my estimation, there were around 50 people at the 7.00pm show. Our invitation told us that 1990s attire was encouraged, especially band outfits. I struggled to find something suitable so wore my Bon Jovi Hoody (yes, they were very popular in the 90s) others had florescent dummies and glow sticks. All of this was to get us in the vibe, to make us feel like we were back in a 90s warehouse squat.
The audience of willing participants are given a safe word, and the piece begins. I’m a Montague. I’m inducted into the Montague family and I am given my new name, Dragon Blood Montague. I learn the chant and within minutes of entering their warehouse space, I am screaming out my hate for the evil Capulet family. I am a Montague, I drink Capulet Blood. I have my warpaint on and I am committed to the production.
With immersive theatre you tend to get out what you put in. I’d say that 90% of Friday’s audience were enjoying the show and taking part. There were a few people who didn’t seem to get it and it was quite off-putting to have them there, especially when they were just sitting around texting on their phones while the rest of the group were playing dodge ball and starting a riot!
The audience is split in two, so my review can only reflect my experience of the Montagues, however, I think I was on the far superior side!
Now, those who know the Shakespeare play well, know that Shakespeare did not tell us why the families were at war, Colab Theatre do tell you. I’m not going to share with you what that reason is, but it gives gravitas to the full production and allows you to embrace your Montague heritage and fight fiercely for your name.
What follows is a fabulously fun two hours of pure enjoyment, silliness and as I like to call it, Shakespeare bingo. If you don’t know the play, this won’t remove any of your enjoyment, but if you do recognise any of the text then it will add to your pleasure, I assure you.
What is utterly brilliant about this show is its believability. I never thought you could speak in iambic pentameter one moment, blank verse the next, then move into a lexicon of swear words and insults yet feel like it fits together seamlessly. It is a credit to the cast that the production isn’t perceived as just a game. The performers are truly talented actors who really do embody their characters and allow you to become absorbed in their world. This to me is perfect immersive theatre and what all immersive theatre companies should be doing.
I loved the piece; I danced like a crazy fool at a rave with Juliet’s nurse, who was incidentally dressed in a Spice Girls outfit – you know the Union Jack one that Geri wore at the Brits. I also played dodgeball and threw a football at Tybalt (maybe if I hurt him then he wouldn’t be able to murder the lovely Mercutio later in the play!). I partied in an after-hour activity in the Church of Friar Laurence and I almost shed a tear when Juliet woke up to find Romeo dead at her feet. I also had the opportunity to question Romeo’s love for Juliet and witnessed the wedding of the ill-fated star-crossed lovers.
I can’t review the piece without mentioning the fight scenes. The coordination of these scenes was amazing, really enjoyable to watch and slightly scary having the action happening around me. Being able to stand over the dead bodies of Tybalt and Mercutio is not as I’d expected.
The piece is a true ensemble production where all the performers are working together to guide the audience through their journey. With characterisations stolen from the “real world” Lord Montague reminded me of Ray Winstone; Romeo a love sick fool; Mercutio that friend who is always in a track suit larking about in the pub; Tybalt in his Del Boy sheep-skin jacket, and Paris in his red chinos and satin shirt. All stereotypes that are warmly embraced and portrayed well.
There were a few technical issues, which I’m sure will be ironed out within a few shows, and sometimes it was hard to hear the cast due to some in the audience experiencing their own story and other cast members running up and down steps. The show also came to a very abrupt ending. All these things will be fixed and this will be worthy of 5 stars.
Buy, beg or steal a ticket for this show, you’ll regret it if you don’t! Go and be a Montague (or a Capulet) and embrace this talented cast as they do their magic.
Review by Faye Stockley
Star-crossed lovers, rival families, you know the story – but would you change it if you could?
This immersive theatre production is a unique adaption of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, set in a warehouse squat during the 1990’s…when rave culture was MASSIVE.
For never was there a story of more woe, but this time the audience decides where this story goes, with the choices they make and the actions they take changing the fate of Juliet and Her Romeo. Your family welcomes you into competing sides as either a Montague or Capulet as you become a character in their story. These violent delights have violent ends, but will you bite your thumb?
Fiona Hardy – Juliet
Vicky Gaskin – Lady Montagues
Peter Dewhurst – Tybalt
Fergus Leatham – Paris
Joeseph Tremain – Benvolio
Ieuan Coombs – Romeo
Jack Harding – Lord Capulet
James Unsworth – Lord Montague
Ben Hudson – Mercutio
Daniel Swain – Friar Laurence
Jurell Carter – Prince
Director: Bertie Watkins
Performance Directors: Peter Dewhurst and Ben Hudson
Creative Producer: Sarah Morris
Sound Design: Ben Hudson
Fight Co-ordinator: James Unsworth
Running Time: approximately 2 hours plus access to exclusive themed bar after performance
Various Dates: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings 24th of March to 27rd of April 2017
Times: 7:00pm – 9.00pm and 9.00pm – 11.00pm
Access to exclusive themed ‘in-world’ bar after the performance Location: Nearest Stations London Bridge or Borough Station CoLab Theatre 84 Long Lane, London, SE1 4AU
Age: Recommended for age 18+
Younger audiences of 14+ may attend with a parent or guardian at their own discretion.
Contains strong language, references to sex, violence, and drugs.