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In the name of love

Rex Gibson on a roller-coaster ride to genuine reconciliation

Romeo and Juliet By William Shakespeare Rougemont Gardens Exeter

Ben Crocker, director of the Northcott Theatre's eighth open-air production, sees special advantages in this year's choice of play. Weather and noise may be the familiar difficulties of outdoor Shakespeare, but the lyricism of Romeo and Juliet matches the stunningly beautiful wooded playing space in Exeter's Rougemont Gardens.

He also observes that the alfresco setting provides enhancing resonance to the story: "The early part of the play is robust and jolly, but it becomes more and more dark. So, as the evening progresses, the ambient light mirrors the development of the plot."

There will be a two-level set, complete with balcony and Juliet's bedroom. Crocker emphasises its simplicity: "Remember that the play was written to be performed on an open, uncluttered stage".

Costumes and props will create a Renaissance period atmosphere, but Crocker underlines the play's abiding relevance in its exploration of what it's like to be in love, and to live in a world of destructive sectarian feuds.

To achieve fast-moving storytelling, anything that may hold up the action or prevent clarity has been cut out. So, out goes Friar Lawrence's lengthy recapitulation in the final act, as do "those laborious puns that depend on a comprehensive knowledge of descriptions of genitalia in Elizabethan times".

But none of Shakespeare's language has been changed, and Crocker is confident that, "even though you might not understand every word Mercutio speaks, you can nonetheless tell what he's talking about".

So, in this production, will the death of Verona's star-crossed lovers end the bloody feud? Crocker eschews the modern fashion for enigmatic or conflict-laden endings.

"Montague and Capulet mean what they say. There's genuine reconciliation. But to get to that moment, the audience shares in an emotional roller-coaster."

In Rougmont's magical atmosphere it will be a memorable white-knuckle ride.

For ticket information Tel: 01392 493493 Education opportunity details from Rachel Vowles Tel: 01392 223988

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