The Customs House, South Shields

The annual “Bard in the Park” by South Shields’s Customs House this year is Romeo and Juliet, a raw simplistic take on the classic Shakespeare piece.

The traditional story of the star crossed lovers plays out in the South Marine Park in South Shields at the recently restored Victorian style bandstand but the bandstand itself is little used with the exception of the famous balcony “Oh Romeo, Romeo” scene between Juliet and Romeo.

Instead a more traditional arena has been erected with the audience, in an improvement from last year, benefiting from tiered seating on either side of the stage area. The set is sparse, (6 cubes to move around) so a lot is left to the imagination to shift between venues mentally as cast members come and go between scenes and greater emphasis is put upon the delivery of the dialogue as a result.

With a modern feel to start (a rap is not something you are expecting), the only indication during the performance that it was set in modern day was the clothing and the appearance of paramedics in uniform. At times it felt as though it reverted back to a more traditional setting instead of keeping with the modern feel.

An extensive cast of the young and fresh faced and Customs House veterans make up the houses of Capulet and Montague. Notable performances include Jane Holman as Nurse who adds humour to the piece and Alex Kinsey as Romeo who delivers well. Viktoria Kay as Mercutio was a pleasure to watch, bringing vibrancy and energy to her scenes.

With a quickening of the pace and more urgency to the delivery of the dialogue, this production by Peter Latham could be another summer success and makes a pleasant evening (weather permitting) for some Bard in the park.