After the success of Romeo and Juliet at Grosvenor Park in the summer, Storyhouse has adapted a pop-up theatre version of the play for local schools. Stage Manager Suzie Foster tells us more.
Can you tell us how the idea for touring Romeo and Juliet in schools come about?
We already have a great relationship with schools in and around Chester – our Creative Learning Practitioners go out to the schools to run workshops and the schools sometimes bring classes to Storyhouse to watch shows, but we didn’t take shows to the schools. For one reason or another it’s usually very difficult for a school to get a class out on a trip to come to Storyhouse so we wanted to create a piece that we could take to them.
We performed Romeo & Juliet at GPOAT in the summer and it is on the curriculum so we thought this would be a good choice for our first outing!
We are also running workshops along side the performances so the students then get a chance to work with The Director and Cast to explore the themes around the play, along with learning some fun warm-up games!
How has the show been adapted for this audience?
Vicky Brazier (who adapted the piece) has done a great job at mixing original Shakespearean text with modern language. The majority of the original language has been kept but modern language has been used to help explain certain phrases that we wouldn’t understand or use now. Shakespeare is often seen as something scary or difficult to understand so we want to engage the students from a young age to show that it isn’t those things – it’s fun and exciting. The full text runs at about 2 ½ hours but this has been adapted to 50 minutes. We’ve essentially taken all the highlights but you don’t loose the story. All the important characters and moments are still in there!
What schools has the show gone to?
As I write this, we are at the end of the first week of the tour with two more to go. We have been to schools in and around Chester and will be visiting ones on the Wirral and Birkenhead. We are in Storyhouse for Wayword Festival next week and then back out for one final week at schools.
How do you manage to transport the show to all of the different schools?
What’s great about this tour is that is has been designed to fit into any school hall. The cast of 7, myself, the Stage Manager (Jess Chaplin) and Elvi (Director), turn up with the van put up the set, props and sound and then do the show. We are very self-contained and all we need is a space to put our set and a plug socket and we are good to go! It is actually a little bit more than that, but we have tried to make it as simple as possible to fit in with the school day. The set can be quickly packed away at the end so the workshop can then take place in the same space. I also think it’s quite exciting for the students to see something different turn up to their school.
What has the response been from students and teachers?
The response has been amazing. The students have really been invested in the characters and the response at the end of each show has been great. You can sometimes see students asking their teachers questions about the show as it is being performed. This is lovely to see as it shows they are really engaged in it. As soon as the show ends they also immediately start discussing it – who they prefer, should Romeo & Juliet have died – its really fun to listen in!
Here’s a taste of some of the wonderful comments and feedback that we’ve received:
“11/10. Absolutely fabulous, the children all loved it! Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to attend.”
“Huge thanks to all of the Romeo and Juliet cast and backstage team at Storyhouse, who performed for our KS2 team this morning. The children loved every minute. A superb performance.”
“An outstanding performance, full of energy and emotion”
“The children (and staff) all loved it!”