Pros: An imaginative new perspective on well-known stories
Cons: Risks being patronising at times
In a combined production from Shakespeare’s Globe and Seabright Productions, Shakespeare Untold introduces us to the worlds of Romeo & Juliet and somewhat obscurely Titus Andronicus, through the fictitious peripheral characters of the Capulet’s party planner, and the Emperor of Rome’s head chef. At two hours long, complete with interval, Shakespeare Untold is a fringe festival exception but the audience are never restless, not even for a second. With a shared set that doubles as the Capulet garden wall, revolving during the interval to reveal the kitchens of Rome, each story takes centre stage for its own half of the running time, in the capable hands of Sally Lofthouse and Tom Giles respectively. Directed by Globe education stalwarts Harper Ray and Adam Sibbald, our performers lead us through the tragic stories as conspiratorial friends, actively involving the audience’s younger members throughout.
Romeo Untold feels like a children’s show, not merely thanks to the pink balloons and birthday streamers that litter the performance space, but in some way, and perhaps because we are so familiar with the story, because we know what’s coming and the actor appears to be working incredibly hard. As a result, although competent and engaging, Lofthouse is at times a little too earnest in her desire to take us through the back streets of Verona and into the Capulet’s mansion and I tried hard not to feel patronised by the skipping and the Katy Perry soundtrack. That said, everyone in the house under twelve loved it.
By contrast, Tom Giles hits the mark throughout, and does a fine turn in convincing us all that a spilled sack of onions and apples is the advancing army of soon to be Emperor, Titus Andronicus. His meat-cleaver sliced iceberg lettuces and beetroot juice make convincing substitutes for beheaded murderers and Giles hits the perfect tone between gore and genuine tragic pathos. We are convinced that the broccoli floret is the advancing general and yet moved by the sorrow of the story and miserable body count. A virtuoso achievement from Giles and had I had a pin, you would have heard me drop it.
Supported by a technical design crew with bags of West End and touring experience, Shakespeare Untold stands out from the festival crowd. Catch it if you can, with or without the company of children.
Author: Harper Ray & Adam Sibbald
Director: Harper Ray & Adam Sibbald
Booking until: This show has now ended its run at Dome Studio.