HOME, the organisation formed by the merger of Manchester’s Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse, will follow up their critically acclaimed sold-out production of Angel Meadow with a spectacular site-specific production of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet in Manchester’s historic Victoria Baths in September 2014 (http://homemcr.org/romeo-and-juliet), the building which won BBC1’s first Restoration programme in 2003.
The company’s second site-specific production in the lead-up to the opening of the £25m centre for theatre, film, and art in spring 2015, Romeo & Juliet will be directed by Walter Meierjohann, HOME’s Artistic Director: Theatre.
The production, part-promenade and part-seated, takes place at three locations in the baths, allowing the audience to get very close to the action. This will give audience members a chance to experience the haunting design by acclaimed designer Ti Green, whose work on Orlando at the Royal Exchange Theatre this year drew much admiration. Not only that, one of the baths’ three pools will be filled with 86,000 gallons of water.
Romeo will be played by Alex Felton, who comes to Manchester fresh from playing Lysander in the Barbican’s world tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while Sara Vickers, who last appeared in the city in the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, and was recently seen as Joan Thursday in ITV’s top-rated Inspector Morse spin-off Endeavour, takes on the role of Juliet.
“The common thread we’re interrogating in our site-specific programme is the idea of belonging,” says Meierjohann, “and our take on Romeo & Juliet is a contemporary fairytale, set in a menacing and violent criminal underworld of Eastern Europe. Romeo & Juliet is a story of love, hatred, and revenge, and we could not have a more evocative and atmospheric setting than the stunning Victoria Baths.”
Romeo & Juliet will be complemented by a Balkan-style score specially written for the production by Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia, performed live by actor-musicians. In addition to the 13-strong professional cast, each performance features a group of drama undergraduates from Manchester Metropolitan University who will form the Chorus Ensemble.
Choreography and movement will be a key element of the production, designed by choreographer Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy – who choreographed parts of the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics under the direction of HOME patron Danny Boyle – of award-winning hip-hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment, and Movement Director Mia Theil Have, of cutting-edge cross-art-form collective Riotous Company.
As part of HOME’s commitment to working with local communities, an extensive community engagement programme is running alongside the production. A series of 19 digital, film, and theatre-based free drop-in workshops will be delivered by three professional artists at three locations in Wythenshawe, resulting in an accompanying installation and exhibition at Victoria Baths during the run of Romeo & Juliet.
Romeo & Juliet will be followed by three productions at Number One First Street – The Best of BE (Birmingham European) Festival (Friday 17/Saturday 18 October); The Events, presented by ATC (Wednesday 22 October – Saturday 25 October); and re:play Festival (Monday 12 – Saturday 24 January 2015).