Star Crossed Shakey – Sheer Brilliance in the Rain

Brass Bands, Bollywood and Big Love!

Forget about finishing the building repairs at the Coliseum – in future everything should be done outdoors - in the rain!
Seriously this was the best.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with an Oldham twist. We all know the story and it has been interprested and updated stylistically in many ways – we’ve had the trad but chocolate box treatment of Zefferelli, the street gangs in West Side Story and Baz Lurhman's version and there’s been Shakespeare in the park before too. But probably not like this. In Alexandra Park, Oldham.

Well In this Romeo is Robbie and Jude and this version has it all with an added a dash of Bollywood and Panto and Pop-Culture a gogo. It’s the Oldham Colisieum in Alexandre Park and its brilliant.

Shakespeare in the rain, with a clown, an ageing hippy and gangs - and oh lots of stuff. Infused with Manc culture as translated through 7 miles into Oldham scallyness. There is some great sliding between Shakespearian speech and slang and contemporary-casual like Jude’e response to Robbie’s proposal to. Jude delivering the “Why, like the inconstant moon?” speech as straight Shakey but then continues “Marry me. Yer havin a laugh!”. It all works.

The afternoon monsoon lightened to a mild spotting of rain that just added to the authentic Oldham Atmosphere. Sound was great with actors discreetly mic’ed and a near invisible sound system hidden in the bushes – those would be Bose Bushes then. As oft is their way the sound presented was an eclectic mix of music and styles were presented kicking off with a Brass Band and “O’Fortuna” from Carmina Burana and moved through a range of contemporary sounds such as “Moves like Jagger”and classic standards like Rodrigo “Concerto de Aranjuez” at the Clubhouse on the bowling green. The Band also served as our guide in the promenade from one part on the park to another. When it was time to change the scene the Call was “Follow the Band.” and so we did, like Alice following the white rabbit to discover…whatever next.

All the Park’s a Stage.

Great use was made of the landmark locations in the park, Starting from the use of the steps at the entrance which became theatre rows and tiers giving the audience a view. The bandstand, WoW! Amazing  to see the bandstand actually being used the colours of the backdrops fitting the bandstand’s decoration. At the Conservatory banners and pennants were flying for the wedding party, where a Bollywood dance routine was perfornmed to “Go Johnny Go,” The clubhouse on the Bowling green for secret meetings, as it grows darker the scenery is lit.

More meetings on and under the iron Bridge then a parting and poison. The audience proceeding from there effectivly forming a funeral procession behind Jude’s coffin on its trip along the lakeside, to pass it and mourners above the lake then down to the boathouse where the seemingly dead Jude lies in her family mauseleum for the final scene. When characters left the stage they would often do so by disappearing through the audience and during the processions incidental characters who had wandered off scene would walk along and banter in character with us, such as - A couple of girls (who popped up at the start of several scenes) trying to sell a stolen telly.
In fact While I was typing these notes on my phone I was accompanied by a clown alongside me. In the dark. Brrr.

In all a stunning post-modernish cultural mix - typical of the soft of thing that the Coliseum crew seem to have a knack for.

And so to the happy ending.

Yep. Romeo and Juliet – Happy Ending. Not often you see that, but as with everything else it was tottaly in character for this show. The panto element kicked in with some interaction allowing Romeo to be warned by the audience that Jude was not really dead and “Don’t Drink the Poison”. Robbie (current on the run) was cleared of murder, by a child who recorded the fracas on her phone. So Robie-o marries Jude-iet and all live happily ever after. Well – after one last joyous musical number of “One Vision” that is!

We must have walked close to a mile in the course of the evening, so not only was  it cultural, entertaining and fun, but healthy exercise too.

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