One night stand

For one night only! A teenage Romeo and Juliet put together by 200 youngsters after just one week's work.

Yes it does sound rather like the breathless plot for a Fame-style film but the reality is much less hectic and a deal more thoughtful. Community projects at the West Yorkshire Playhouse have always set exacting standards and Michael Birch stages them with considerable elan.

Birch has been working with a group of experienced youth actors on the main parts for some months. The crowd and fight scenes will be played by volunteers after a week's preparation, helped and advised by stuntmen from the Royal Armories. A vivid opening fight scene will emphasise the fear in the play, a factor that Birch believes is not given sufficient importance in many productions.

"The play has no meaning unless it's based on fear. If there is no danger there is no tragedy. How do I create a view of the feud? All of the Capulets will have northern accents, nouveau riche and flat caps, and all the Montagues are going to speak Penelope Keith, posh southern accents."

There will be more than one Romeo and more than one Juliet. Birch wants to give as many of his actors as possible the chance for a really meaty role. He has, he hopes, taken the fear out of the text, lifting the curse, as he calls it, by taking the verse out and presenting the text to the actors as prose. It should bring the rhythm of the text to life.

Minor but essential characters will be examined for their effectiveness in the plot: "The Nurse and the Friar are always neglected. They are totally responsible and I want to explore their responsibility. The nurse gives the most appalling advice - 'Marry Paris' indeed! This is the core of tragedy, it's about idealism versus practicality.

"The Nurse is either the classical, motherly Edith Evans type or the busy, efficient housekeeper. Neither of which gets to the root.

"I'm doing some wicked things", Birch reveals with a gleam of mischief. "I'm inventing an affair between Lady Montague and Benvolio to mirror the affair everyone creates between Tybalt and Lady Capulet".

West Yorks Playhouse August 3. Tickets: 0113 244 2111

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