Romeo and Juliet
For even the most hardened theatre goer, Shakespeare remains that one impenetrable wall of academic literature that borders on study, rather than entertainment.
Oddsocks Theatre Company seems to disagree, reinvigorating the Bard’s’ works with a healthy dose of contemporary humour. The purists might resist their extreme reworking, often turning tragedy into comedy, but it cannot be denied that they provide a gateway to enjoying Shakespeare like no other company.
Their 2017 summer tour takes on the hilarious Romeo and Juliet and the very funny Macbeth, well it is in their hands anyway. The one thing that survives in this version of Romeo and Juliet is Oddsocks’ respect for the works. Whilst some of the comedy juxtapositions feel a little uncomfortable, the text is largely unaltered, albeit with some scripted and often adlibbed additions.
In this version, Romeo and Juliet are star crossed lovers all the way from London and Brighton. Its set in the era of Mods and Rockers, who historically clashed back in the seventies, and the two houses at war are now the owners of an Italian restaurant and a Rock Bar.
There are props, costumes, scooters and motorbikes and more wigs than a crown court, all skilfully used for the cast of just six players to carry off the entire play.
Andy Barrow is both director and actor playing Capulet and looking like a heavy metal crossover between Noddy Holder and Guns and Roses guitarist Slash. Revelling in his Brummie accent and often referring to his draughter as `Joliate.’ Also while playing, Tybalt he injected a great deal of incidental humour to his parts.
Matthew Burns was Romeo and looking more like a mature Harry Potter, he clearly is a very capable performer and matched with Pippa Lewis as Juliet the pairing added a more stable Shakespeare performance to the overall pantomime.
Rebecca Little was the Nurse. Vocally sounding like a Barbara Windsor she chuckled her way through the performance leaving a lot of the ad lib work to other performers.
Alexander Bean was Mercutio and the Friar, the latter now hailing from the Caribbean. Mr Bean seemed to enjoy the odd moment of audience banter and turned some impromptu moments into very funny asides.
Finally Gavin Harrison was Benvolio and Paris the latter being known as Jimmy Paris the well known rock guitarist. All the cast members made up an onstage band and supply the live music with playing an instrument or two when not directly involved in the onstage action.
Throughout there are renditions of songs like Sweet Child of Mine and Every Breath You take which have been neatly shoehorned in at relevant moments, to ramp up the entertainment value.
There are times when the comedy feels a little too uncomfortable as with `Joliet ‘struggling to commit suicide with a blunt table knife. Also, as there is a high level of slapstick comedy, the Oddsocks audience can often be young year six types and although the humour is tongue in cheek it also sometimes near the mark.
With it all played out on a slowly disintegrating set that greatly added to the comic chaos, the company delivers Shakespeare in a way that engages the audience in a totally unique way.
In their capable hands it’s bawdy, mad cap and energetic and that perhaps is closer to how Shakespeare might have been presented in Elizabethan times. The subsequent years of academic straight jacketing may have created a stuffy formal view of Shakespeare, keeping it away from the masses, but Oddsocks mission is to change that and it’s working. To 18-05-17