For the final play in their Out and About season, the Oldham Coliseum commissioned Oldham born playwright Ian Kershaw to write a play set in the beautiful Alexandra Park. With its picturesque and historical locations, Kershaw was inspired to rewrite Romeo and Juliet with a modern day Oldham turf-war twist, a brass band, Bollywood and street dance.
The result - Star-Cross’d is a production with heart, a magically uplifting feast for all the senses. This is the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet I’ve been waiting (since Baz Luhrmann’s reworking, anyway) to see.
Integrating modern language with Shakespeare’s prose, Kershaw’s dialogue is instantly accessible and the energy of the actors, battling rain, some sound problems and sightline issues, is engaging. Director Kevin Shaw maintains the pace by moving the action and the audience to various locations within the park, such as the lover’s bridge and the pavilion, at the right moments to allow them to digest what they’ve seen and keep them interested.
Adam Barlow plays Robbie, the intelligent and dreamy half of the star-cross’d pair, as a real northern lad and the moments we see him knocking about with Matt Connor’s Ben and his other Montague mates are more-ishly fun and charming. Anjli Mohindra plays a strong and striking Judama, attractively self-assured, but determined to do the right thing. John Elkington’s baby-bio-toting Loz gives the story detail and a comic turn and Mina Anwar, doubling as a commanding copper and the faithful Nurse, elevates the energy of the play and provides real bursts of comedy.
The production is ambitious and large-scale, involving an ensemble of hundreds including a community choir, the Indian Association Dance Troupe, RM Fusion Dance Company and the brass bands of Oldham and Delph. The musical interludes, performed by the entire cast and varying from pop to opera to Bhangra, are often enjoyable, but sometimes random, distracting and overly long.
The audience on the night I attended didn’t seem to mind this though and, with their camping chairs and boxes of wine in tow, they were all aboard for what is a spectacular journey of love, life and Lancashire.