Tuesday, November 29

Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare North Playhouse

This was my second visit in a week to this newly built theatre in the heart of Prescot near Liverpool – so strong was the lure of having a theatre showing Shakespeare’s works in the Northwest of England. Having this auspicious opportunity to visit such a unique and inspiring building and to have these amazing plays on offer, at only a 20- minute drive away, was for me, as a theatre lover – a dream come true.  

The building of the Shakespeare North Playhouse was two major projects – firstly to build a theatre on the original site, where Richard Harrington constructed a theatre (1597-1603) to show the bards plays and secondly to build an outdoor arena in memory of Liverpool’s iconic comic genius Ken Dodd. Ken Dodd’s Memorial Gardens is set out with traditional stone steps that accompanies around 100 guests and is set against the backdrop of Ken’s loving image.

On a calm, autumn evening, I can think of no better a venue than this and as the sun was slowing setting (7pm) there was an air of anticipation and intrigue as the punters arrived, carrying cushions and blankets in preparation for what could be a cool evening. The three cast members welcomed us in with music and enthusiasm, introducing themselves as a travelling theatre company “Handle-bards”. They explained that through the next 2 hours, the three would be playing all roles, so although Paul Moss would be Romeo, Lucy Green – Juliet, and Tom Dixon the nurse, they would play all other parts as well and this was effortlessly accomplished! 

So, the play began, and we were all carried joyfully through a magical journey of 16th century tongue, mimicry, interaction (thanks Joey in the audience), dry humour, fast costume/gender/role changes, improvisation, dancing, a lot of water spraying (within the cast), some ninja antics (yes really!) and throughout this, effortless timing, immaculate and faultless acting, humorous ad-libbing and awe-inspiring entertainment.  

Throughout the break, I heard audience members (of all ages) stating how wonderful it was, how talented each of the cast were and how, as they rushed back to their pews, they couldn’t wait to see Act 2.

We are all aware of the fateful tragedy of the two estranged lovers and how their lives are ended so unwittingly, however, “Handle-bards” deliver this in such an entertaining and unique way, it is as if the play is discovered for the first time. I personally, have seen this play delivered by RSC at Stratford and this evening’s show was even more enjoyable and remarkable.    

“Handle-bards” move on throughout the country on their push bikes! It is an enjoyable experience play for all ages and on your doorstep!

Prices £17.00 (pay what you decide). An amazing Shakespearean experience!

Reviewer Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 24th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★