Theatre Review: Montagues and Capulets @ The COLAB Factory
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Ever wanted to experience a real-life Shakespearean tragedy? As most of us are aware of how those end the answer is probably no, not really; but the COLAB theatre have taken it upon themselves to allow those curious enough in Shakespeare to experience the infamous tragedy of Romeo and Juliet in a safe(ish) environment.
The ‘ish’ relates to the setting of this latest take on The Bard’s Romeo and Juliet: in a warehouse during the 90s rave scene.
Not well known for health, safety and hygiene, the rave itself is rather grotty – but does deliver a full-blown immersive experience to the audience, who are thrown in immediately with one of the houses. Similarly (as is customary with COLAB productions), audience members are subjected to crawling around, a lot of swearing and shouting, and some spirited foam sword fights.
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Greeted with a house brand and a cheeky ‘Oi oi!’ from the actors, the audience is split from the off, each leads to different ends of the warehouse to experience the tragic love story from one unique angle: that of an insider to either the Montague or Capulet families.
Bertie Watking, Writer and Director for the COLAB Theatre, said of this production that he wanted to “focus on the tribalism and tragedy of the play”; and on this the production certainly delivers. Each audience member is initiated into their chosen family and rarely crosses paths with the other, while the actors for each drive home the rivalry between the opposing groups. The ‘tribalism’ between the sparring houses is hammered home thanks to the lead actors and constant shouted jibes toward the other group (which the audience is encouraged to get involved in).
What makes the production particularly fun is the mix of original Shakespearean text, but also the sporadic off-script lines that naturally occur given the nature of this particular production. The language used occasionally slips into clichéd 90s parlance, and with audience members able to change the outcome of the play this certainly isn’t a production for Shakespeare purists.
Nevertheless the balance between the traditional Shakespearean text and free-styling is fairly even, and is nicely broken up with energetic sequences where audience members are required to help propel the plot forward. For a play that on the surface may not have many obvious tasks for outsiders to aid with, this production manages to keep both warring sides busy through every act.
Some audience members are given specific tasks to complete and others are put on the spot against an opposing member of the other house; so this certainly isn’t for those looking for a passive experience.
Overall the play has enough for fans of Shakespeare to remain happy while experiencing a really distinctive retelling of the story, plus enough energy to entertain those who really want to get stuck in with the action.
As with any immersive experience, there is an air of uncertainty and certain elements could do with ironing out and perfecting given how unpredictable audience members can be, however it is still a solidly entertaining production that does justice to the tragedy of Juliet and her Romeo.
Montagues and Capulets will run until 27th April 2017; find out more here.