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Insane Roots’ Romeo and Juliet – Eastville Swimming Pool REVIEW

Insane Roots are famous for putting on plays in weird and wonderful places, and their Romeo and Juliet was no different. As we file through the large green rusty gates into the abandoned Eastville outdoor swimming pool we were met with an overgrown secret garden with stone steps leading down into a natural amphitheatre for tales to unfold in. The location is filled with mystery and imagination as the actors enter and exit from all angles keeping the audience’s heads turning.

Before entering the production we were taught a tune to hum as backing for the cast to dance to in the party scene. This technique of humming and singing to build atmosphere was used effectively throughout the performance.

Jessica Temple as Juliet is playful and joyous, you can’t help but mirror her emotions whether that is glee or despair. Her energy was infectious and her youth shone through and took centre stage, or should I say centre pool?… She was an incredibly strong Juliet and I will look out for her in more plays to come.

Peter Clifford took on the role as Capulet, playing it in a way that very few could manage. He was domineering, powerful and downright terrifying, everything Capulet should be. Ben Crispin as Mercutio whose laidback and swaggering vibe was intriguing and charming was also a strong male member of the cast. As mentioned Jessica’s Juliet was outstanding, and was accompanied by Deborah Tracey as the Nurse whose compassion and care for Juliet was heartwarming.

Romeo and Juliet is a play done many a time in many a way with hundreds of different interpretations. Hannah Drake’s direction was fresh and modern. With hoodies and trainers contrasting with socks and sandals to represent the divide between the houses in an up to date fashion. The script was left uncorrupted and pure as it should be, but they made the Shakespearean jargon easy to understand, furthering the accessibility of the play.

What makes Insane Root’s stand out as a company is their never ending imagination and skill for adapting space. They have adapted the play perfectly to make it accessible and fresh, ready for the theatre lovers of Bristol to lap up.

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My lovers stamp I exchanged my ticket for.

On this rare occasion I managed to rope in all members of my family to come along and attend this play, which trust me, barely ever happens. I’d thought I would take advantage of having multiple other opinions to share so… for the first time on my blog… meet the family…

Firstly you’ve got my regular theatre chum… my mother, Pam. She is never not singing a musical number and cries regularly at daytime TV. She danced, sang and acted professionally from the age of 16 and has successfully run multiple dance schools for over 30 years so she knows her stuff.

“The setting really lent itself to Romeo and Juliet especially because you always think of the famous balcony scene so because you had those levels it really worked… It really portrayed young innocent love.”

My father, Chris, runs at the mere sight of a cheesy musical but appreciates good theatre when he sees it. I’ve taken him to see shows such as WarHorse, The Play That Goes Wrong and The Two Noble Kinsmen at the RSC. He is also my go-to plus one for any music event as his music library is only out done by his musical knowledge.

“I think the accent is on the setting and being charmed by circulating actors in the glow of evening light… The sound was nicely provided by the wandering minstrel playing a Ukulele.”

My older brother Elliott, grew up surrounded by tutu’s and tuning forks with his mother a dance teacher and his father a dancer/opera singer. He may have dabbled in the world of performing arts as a youngster but has hung up his tights for now. He still enjoys a night out to the theatre and recently loved the Welsh National Opera Die Fledermaus.

“You could connect with it so much easier because it was very accessible. As about as accessible as you could as ask for… It was so good. I’ve not got that much to say about it because I couldn’t fault it.”

Finally my younger brother James, who honestly would rather spend his time playing video games than an having an evening of culture. He was Insane Roots’ toughest critic, but they still managed to impress.

“I found it entertaining and understandable. I thought the acting was of a professional standard. My favourite moment was the fight scene when Mercutio and Tybalt died because it was really well done.” 

My family’s opinion is clear, as is mine. This production is a creative triumph and any Shakespeare lover should endeavour to see it.

Insane Roots’ Romeo and Juliet is running in Eastville Park Swimming Pool until July 29th

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