Behind the scenes of Romeo and Juliet: Interview with the directors

Caitlin Rawlings quizzes NUTS directors Pearl Andrews-Horrigan and Hannah Shepherd on their adaption of Romeo and Juliet.

Caitlin Rawlings
18th November 2019
Arts sub-editor Caitlin Rawlings quizzes the NUTS directors, Pearl Andrews-Horrigan and Hannah Shepherd, prior to their thrilling adaption of Shakespeare’s timeless classic, Romeo and Juliet. 

What does your role as a NUTS director entail? 

H: A lot of organisation. It’s our role to visualise the finished show.

P: It means running rehearsals every weekday evening and now the show is approaching also on weekends. We have to bring the energy to a room that we expect the actors to match. We can’t sit back and ask them to be really energetic, we as directors have to bring it.

What is it about the story of Romeo and Juliet that made you want to direct this specific play? 

P: I think it’s probably one of Shakespeare’s most successful plays. It’s got a much simpler storyline, and everyone knows the story whereas other Shakespeare plays are not quite as popular. 

H: Everyone may know the story but the way in which we are performing the play is different which I hope will interest people. 

What makes your interpretation of the play stand out from all the other adaptions of this Shakespeare’s classic? 

P: Apart from a student show in America no other company has set the play in 1980s Berlin. As a result of updating the setting we attempted to make the language more accessible. We’ve tried to use props and alter the way actors say their lines to make it clear what exactly is being said and what the dialogue means. 

We also have the Berlin Wall which acts as a symbol in our adaption

Has the change in the play’s context from Venice to Berlin affected a lot about the performance? 

H: We are not changing the Shakespearean language. It is the original text; actors are not using German accents. 

P: Everyone came to auditions and asked if they had to perform in a German accent. For some reason it had never occurred to me that people would assume that. 

H: We also have the Berlin Wall which acts as a symbol in our adaption. 

P: The wall was a major challenge for us. We considered whether the wall would be onstage or maybe dividing the stage, however we had to consider sight lines. In the end we decided to set the narrative in East Berlin and have all the West Berlin characters travelling over to the East side as there was no feasible way to situate the wall onstage. 

The basic story line will always be relevant and that’s part of the reason that Shakespeare’s work has survived 

How have you made the play relevant and accessible to modern audiences? 

P: The basic story line will always be relevant and that’s part of the reason that Shakespeare’s work has survived. Ultimately, it’s about two teenagers who fall in love who really shouldn’t, and their forbidden relationship has terrible consequences which I’m sure most people can relate to. 

Why should someone buy a ticket for your show? 

H: You are unlikely to see this play put on in this way ever again. The fact we are doing it in Berlin makes this show limited edition. 

P: It’s all the cast who have impacted this show. All the cast and crew have collaborated to put a twist on the play. 

H: There are some amazing actors in the cast and for a lot of them this will be their first ever NUTS play out of many. If you want to be that person who saw them in their first NUTS show you must go and see Romeo and Juliet

Passion, parties and poison

Could you sum up the show in three words? 

H: Passion, parties and poison. 

The NUTS adaption of Romeo and Juliet will be performed at St Luke’s Church from the 28th November till the 30th November. Tickets for Romeo and Juliet and all the other NUTS productions are available via the NUSU website on the NUTS page. 

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