You can’t beat a bit of the Bard on the stage and the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool is currently running two of Shakespeare’s arguably well-known, yet very different plays – the greatest, most tragic, love story of all-time Romeo & Juliet, and the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following on from last year’s successful stint of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Epstein, director, producer and actor Daniel Taylor returns with his local theatre company, Daniel Taylor Productions, to bring this back-to-back on alternating nights with Romeo & Juliet, and the result is nothing short of breath-taking. It was Shakespeare brought to life in a fresh, unique and endearing way.
First up was the tale of those star-crossed lovers, adapted by Trisha Duffy, using the setting of 1880s Liverpool, with the feuding Catholic Montagues and Protestant Capulets. The set was simple and effective, using a huge open cross with light shining through that was able to demonstrate the changing shifts of the story. The music and sound effects built up the drama and the suspense perfectly, and the way that the cast also utilised the floor space around the audience, and the above balcony for that infamous scene, was clever and made it fully immersive. Faye Griffiths as Juliet and James Ledsham as Romeo made the roles their own; engaging, emotional, pained and desperate. They were aided along their troubled path by Friar Laurence, played by Nick Wymer. The climatic ending was superbly acted and there were several strong performances, including Chloe Taylor as the Nurse, Lenny Wood as Mercutio, Sharon Byatt as Mrs Capulet, and Fra Gunn as Mr. Montague.
After the previous night’s tragic conclusion, I was looking forward to a bit of fun and A Midsummer Night’s Dream made me laugh out loud numerous times. This was adapted by Helen Jeffrey and from the second it started delivered a captivating, playful, hypnotic and magical experience. Introducing us to the tale, the boundlessly energetic James Templeton as Puck the narrator was surely a show-stealer, but he was in good company with a string of knock-out performances. The Duke of Athens, Theseus, (John Schumacher) is preparing for his wedding to Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Sharon Byatt). Four lovers, Hermia (Lucy Litchfield), Lysander (Sam Donovan), Demetrius (Ed Barr-Sim) and Helena (Chloe Taylor) find themselves lost deep in the words amongst the mischievous sprites, embroiled in a fairy war between Titania and Oberon. We also have a group of amateur actors presenting a play within a play, including the comically overacting Bottom, portrayed by Daniel Taylor, and Timothy Lucas as Flute. Again, the use of floor space was ingenious, the balcony used by the royal family watching Bottom and co act out their hysterical production, and the sprites watching on from individual alcoves each side of the audience.
All respect to the cast and crew, with the majority of the cast playing roles in both plays, some multiple. They managed to deliver robustly and memorably, highlighting such an immense amount of local acting talent.
The production is until Saturday 21 April, and tickets can be brought from this link: https://www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk/events/romeo-juliet-midsummer-nights-dream/
For more information about the work of Daniel Taylor Productions and to see what’s coming up next, like their Facebook page Daniel Taylor Productions LTD.
(Romeo & Juliet pic by Danny Burns, L1 Photography)