Home » London Theatre Reviews » Romeo & Juliet – Guildford Shakespeare Company | Review

Romeo & Juliet – Guildford Shakespeare Company | Review

Guildford Shakespeare Company’s (GSC) Sarah Goran and Matt Pinches said they wanted to create something special for their 18th Anniversary Summer Production and you can tell that they have before you even reach the first venue. Guildford High Street is closed to traffic for this production, and it is a treat to see this beautiful, cobbled street free from parked cars. There are also many political posters, but these are asking us to vote Montague or Capulet not Rishi or Keir.

Romeo & Juliet presented by Guildford Shakespeare Company. Photo credit Mark Dean.
Romeo & Juliet presented by Guildford Shakespeare Company. Photo credit Mark Dean.

GSC’s cast of eight professional actors are supported by members of Guildford’s wider community: the gangs of young Capulets and Montagues are made up from four local schools and GSC’s two drama clubs, and local performers play the guests at the Capulet’s ball.

The first of seven iconic venues, the steps of Holy Trinity Church, sees the aforementioned youth ensemble take on the daunting task of opening the play with the riot scene between the Capulet and Montague gangs. From here we move to the 400-year-old Abbot’s hospital, where we meet the Capulet family discussing Juliet’s marriage proposal from Count Paris. Romeo’s lovesick ruminations with his friends Benvolio and Mercutio takes place at Tunsgate Arch before we proceed to the stylish Tunsgate Quarter, the venue of the Capulet’s ball. The balcony scene is played out on the beautiful balcony of the 14th Century Guildhall. The rest of the action takes place in the grounds of the Castle.

This is a wonderful production; Christian James and April Hughes are very believable as the teenage lovers, Chris Porter a charismatic Lord Capulet, (I particularly enjoyed his dad-dancing at the ball. David Carr’s Friar Lawrence is a kind, loving figure, trying his hardest to solve Romeo and Juliet’s problems. GSC Productions often require company members to take on more than one role and, in this production, Luke Latchman plays Benvolio and Paris, Emma Manton plays the Nurse and Prince and Laura Matthews plays Lady Capulet and Tybalt. They all do this ably. My greatest praise goes to Daniel Burke who undoubtedly gives the best performance of Mercutio I have ever seen: the ultimate scene stealer, he jokes, dances, fights and delivers his lines brilliantly. I barely noticed that he was the same actor playing Lord Montague as, with all very good actors, he has the ability to completely change persona.

This production is simply the best! There are so many people involved in making this a success: the artistic team who had to work with so many venues, ensure that props and costume were in the right place at the right time, the different venues in Guildford who all said “yes” when asked and the unsuspecting participants who just happened to be having a drink a meal or walking through the town and found themselves right in the middle of the production. The greatest star of this production is Guildford, the performance is part history walk and part excellent theatre, two of my favourite things. Guildford is a lovely town and Matt and Sarah have succeeded in producing something truly memorable. Happy 18th Birthday GSC, you have truly come of age.

5 Star Rating

Review by Sally Knipe

Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted by Sarah Gobran and Matt Pinches
Directed by Matt Pinches
Set and Costume Design by Neil Irish, with Anett Black
Sound Design by Matt Eaton
Movement and Co-Director Indiana Lown Collins
Youth Ensemble Director Rob Cann

This summer, one of the greatest love stories of all time will explode onto the streets of Guildford. For three weeks, celebrating their 18th birthday, Guildford Shakespeare Company is closing the High Street every evening to bring to life the passion and excitement of Shakespeare’s epic star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet. Throughout one of the UK’s most beautiful high streets, audiences will be immersed in Shakespeare’s gripping tale of love and sacrifice.

Featuring the iconic Guildhall balcony historic Abbot’s Hospital, stylish Tunsgate Quarter and more, audiences will follow the action through Guildford as the story unfolds, ending in the stunning Castle Gardens. GSC’s professional cast will also be joined by a Community Ensemble of adults and young people. Putting the show on the High Street and using iconic local landmarks will bring an immediacy to this 400-year-old story. Site-responsive shows enable audiences to interact with their shared space in a completely new, accessible and exciting way.

Guildford Shakespeare Company presents
Guildford Town Centre and Castle Gardens
21 June to 13 July 2024


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