Shakespeare at The Tobacco Factory

Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory

More Shakespeare? You’d think you could have enough, but each year SATT advertise their latest production and it is always good, with something fresh and different.
This year’s offering is Romeo and Juliet. Well, not one of my one of my favourites to be honest.
It belongs to sentimental films and my teenage years:


I loved this one at the time, but not now. My kids are past their teenage years, do I really want to go back there?
But we’re going anyway.
Bad idea?
Well let’s see what SATTF can do with it.
Olivia Hussey or Westside Story? Well the promotional photo could be either:


But first, a preview:

It looks more Westside Story, though of course that’s not what they’re saying. No songs promised either.
They’re talking about rubber bands. What’s that about?
But I’m looking forward to the roundabout. And fights with foam weapons!
A generational split, well that’s something I’ll relate to.

Planning ahead is not my strong point. As usual, we were scrabbling around for last minute tickets. These productions are really popular and sell out fast, but I got lucky with three tickets left on a Saturday night, not together, but really good ones.
I really like going to the Tobacco Factory for any sort of drama. It’s a small space and you’re close up and personal with the action. For me that is completely absorbing; You might even catch a splash of blood, or get roped in to hold a glass of wine at the Ball, you never know. Bert got the wine glass this time and wished he’d tried a sip. Also, the new seats are comfortable!

First the programme:


Definitely not Olivia Hussey.
Then the set: the roundabout was the set; a deserted children’s playground.
It was period, of sorts, the late sixties. I liked that, though it’s hard to think of the time of your childhood as Period. Young people eh?
Then we were off, straight into a teenage gang fight. I suppressed the desire to mutter “Just grow up, won’t you?” (one of those generational rubber bands they were talking about I suppose), and immersed myself in a world of adolescent energy and intense drama. Here’s a sample from my programme ( you have to imagine the costumes):


You know, it was really good!
The fights were fast-paced and a bit too realistic (“ugh” at one point), and I can’t quite believe that those weapons really were made of foam. The production was snappy and attention grabbing. I began to identify with the energy and enthusiasm and understand how this story could spiral out of control.
The production wasn’t perfect, but then, neither is the play. Interest flagged in the second half, and of course you know how it ends: there was never any feeling of doubt about that. The director’s rubber band metaphor was interesting but I wasn’t sure it worked – it felt more like a failure to keep a lid on it all (speaking as a parent of course).
Even so, it was a good show and here are some of the best bits for me:
It had some really good acting. SATTF always pulls this off and I wasn’t disappointed.
Highlights were:
– Paapa Essiedu as a convincing teenager, enthusiastic, posturing and full of swagger.
– The casting of Juliet (Daisy Whalley) as a childlike girl just into puberty. You can’t ignore contemporary child abuse issues here.
– A youthful nurse in Sally Oliver, modern, a bit brassy, a bit streetwise.
– Paul Currier playing the Friar as one of those soft spoken vicars trying to be like Jesus. One who does yoga, a controversial topic with Bristol vicars at the moment!
– Oliver Hoare was a convincing and irrepressibly annoying Mercutio.

The costumes and hair: I loved Nurse’s lurex jumpsuit and Romeo’s white leather jacket. Here’s some of the costume designs from my programme, just to give you the flavour:


The ball scene: modern and really entertaining.
The one song: Shakespeare’s, but lifted from Cymbeline, a later play. It’s very beautiful.
The roundabout: it doubled neatly as both weapons stash and a dance floor for the Ball.

I had a good evening with SATTF, and in the end I was happy to be reminded of how it felt back then as a teenager. A quick injection of youthful energy – yes very welcome, but not to be back there, after all it ends badly.

There’s still time to catch this play, and I do recommend it.

Meanwhile, I’ve promised to book the next tickets well in advance and I want to be the one on the front row, holding the wine glass.

Connie saw Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet a Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol:

She’s planning to go and see their next production, School for Scandal, and will buy some tickets when her sister finds time to fix a date:

2 thoughts on “Shakespeare at The Tobacco Factory”

  1. Great review Connie! I’ve just been to see it and it was wonderful. The best thing I’ve seen at The Tobacco Factory in years. Young, exciting, funny, moving. A privilege to have watched it. What’s the phrase you sometimes see? ‘Kill for a ticket.’ Obviously don’t, but do your damnedest to try and get one.

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