Zoom shows can be a thoroughly strange affair. Should it be camera on or off? Do we really need to see, or be seen by, other audience members? Although it is rather fun casting an eye over those brave enough to (or maybe unaware you don’t need to) keep the camera on pre-show. It’s rather like Gogglebox for the theatre world.
Audience inspection over, it’s time for the performance, where we quickly find ourselves watching a Zoom show about a couple putting on a Zoom show. For a moment there are concerns of it being yet another Zoom show about Zoom shows, plus wondering if it’s just an alternative Sh!tfaced Shakespeare. Thankfully it’s done with such self-reflexive silliness and unique style that you can just settle back and go along for the ridiculous 80-minute ride.
Titular Sharon and Barry (Joanne Seymour and David Nellist) are your typical working class, middle-aged Northern couple. Bored of lockdown, they have decided to perform Romeo and Juliet over Zoom, predominately for their nephew, Alex, who is studying the play at school. Except Sharon, after a drink or two, decided to post it on Facebook, and now there’s quite an audience, including Sharon’s zumba classmates and Barry’s football club. Suddenly the pair are having pre-show nerves, but luckily for us decide to soldier on.
Once Barry has hastily donned trousers, the pair dive wholeheartedly into their performance, aided by their young nephew (Jack Scanell-Wood tonight, but alternating with Jessica Rothon). Sharon absolutely hams it up, showing all the enthusiasm of someone who probably regrets not getting into am-dram. Barry’s a little more hesitant, worried about looking a fool: “Sharon, I’m not doing the posh voice, the lads are in” he complains early on. Slowly though, even Barry forgets his concerns, although you have to worry he’ll have a coronary before they reach the end, as those frantic costume changes and trying to do all the various characters start to take a visible toll on his slightly overweight frame.
Director Douglas Rintoul plays marvellously with the show’s single camera view, allowing the pair to rush around as in any classic living-room farce. They pop in and out of view, sometimes ‘accidently’ in shot as they change costume, or set up for the next scene. Making something look so amateurish in such a professional way is probably not as easy as it seems. Likewise, Nicola Thomas’ costumes are fitting; or perhaps ill-fitting is a better description. Sharon’s Juliet dress is about five sizes too big, forcing her to constantly pull it up over her jeans and t-shirt, while Barry’s Romeo blonde wig gets more and more dishevelled, as he frantically switches between it and a maid’s bonnet.
A lovely little extra is the show’s programme: not the one for the real show, but for the show within the show, giving a little bio on Sharon and Barry, and thanking Amazon and Ebay for the props and lighting. A delightful little imaginative touch.
Sharon ‘n’ Barry do Romeo & Juliet really is a wonderfully silly show. There is no pretence it is anything else. In fact, I am now eager to see Sharon and Barry do their next Zoom show: may I put in an early request for Hamlet? I’m not sure that their poor nephew will have learned anything helpful from tonight’s performance though!
Written by: William Shakespeare (sort of)
Directed by: Douglas Rintoul
Produced by: Matthew Russell for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Sharon ‘n’ Barry do Romeo & Juliet is available daily until Saturday 6 March, times vary. The Thursday show will be via YouTube and not Zoom. Tickets are £8 plus 65p booking fee. See Queen’s Theatre website for full details.