Purbrook resident Rosalie Cuthbert reviews Groundlings Theatre’s current productions of two Shakespeare classics, featuring a replica of The Rose Playhouse, where Romeo & Juliet was first performed.
When Richard Stride had the idea of recreating the Rose Theatre Playhouse and putting it in the auditorium of the Groundlings Theatre, some said it could not be done. But he has achieved his dream in time for a summer season of Shakespeare plays.
The Rose Playhouse was built in London more than 400 years ago, 12 years before the Globe Theatre. The scaled replica created by Groundlings has allowed audiences to enjoy an experience as intimate as it is exciting. Crowded in close to the action as the words of the Bard unfold, this is theatre as you’ve never experienced it before, a truly unique experience.
In a scaled replica of the theatre where Romeo and Juliet was first performed, Groundlings Theatre are presenting special productions of Shakespeare’s classic love story – played by an all male cast in traditional Tudor costumes, as it was in Shakespeare’s day – alongside the classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
I have been privileged to see both these shows and they are nothing short of brilliant. The costumes are authentic and the acting superb. The all-male cast of professionals appearing in Romeo and Juliet are supplemented by amateur actors from the Groundlings Drama School in the classic comedy of Much Ado About Nothing.
Jason Ferries excels as Romeo and is aptly matched by Connor McCreedy as Juliet. The pair create incredibly tender love scenes and one almost forgets that the role of Juliet is played by a man. Richard Stride directs and acts in consummate comedic form, playing the character of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Tim Skelton, who has appeared at Groundlings in many shows recently, plays Lord Capulet, the hard-hearted father to Juliet, and Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing.
There are lots of comedic moments in Much Ado About Nothing, and the sword-fighting scenes in Romeo and Juliet are well choreographed and believe me, quite scary when you are sitting as close to the action as I was!
The shows are on at Groundlings until Thursday 25th July, and will then be touring for open air productions, notably at Stansted House, The Wardrobe in Salisbury , and the Whitchurch Silk Mill.
Please check the Groundlings Theatre website for dates and times or contact the Box Office on 02392 737370. Ticket prices are from £12 to £16, with reductions for a family ticket and groups. Audiences are invited to bring your own chairs and picnics to the open air shows.