A Bard task but Middle School cast rise to the challenge

Berwick Middle School stage a musical version of Romeo and Juliet at the Matlings
Berwick Middle School stage a musical version of Romeo and Juliet at the Matlings

Berwick became Verona earlier this week for a entertaining adaptation of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ by Berwick Middle School but unlike the plot the performance was anything but tragic.

Many established thespians have cut their acting teeth on the works of William Shakespeare but his plays have also proven a step too far for some actors.

Which makes the children of Berwick Middle’s crowd pleasing two night run all the more of an achievement.

Shakespeare is regarded as rather stuffy in some quarters but you certainly couldn’t say that of to the Shakespeare 4 Kidz version which the school chose to follow.

Shakespearean language in its truest form runs the risk of drowning both casts and their audiences but the blend of the original text and modern day vocabulary worked well, particularly when brought to life by such an enthusiastic cast.

The spotlight fell on Matthew French and Amelia Bell as the star crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet.

With their families embroiled in a rivalry which would make Tyne-Wear derbies look tame, Romeo & Juliet’s romantic road was always going to be rocky and Matthew and Amelia, whilst delivering their dialogue impeccably also got to the heart of their characters changing fortunes.

They were both at ease as the optimistic and blissfully in love Romeo & Juliet and as the troubled souls once fate had dealt its hand.

This adaptation’s major trump card was its inventive and engaging musical score which like the plot itself, changed tempo throughout and provided its own twists and turns.

Amelia particularly showed she could turn her voice to both raucous and more subdued numbers with her soft tones on the likes of ‘One Kiss’ and ‘Just A Name’ a real pleasure to listen to.

And it’s hard to believe that Matthew was only drafted into the role with weeks to spare as he too was a confident singer.

Matthew was originally cast as Tybalt and his replacement for the role of the tough talking Capulet, Emily Farndale-Brown too looked at ease in her hastily re-cast role.

Two of the show’s most enthusiastic stars were Stephanie Gallagher and Jamie Farnaby as the Nurse and Friar Lawrence.

They not only played two cracking characters but are clearly great characters themselves.

Their starring musical moments ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ and ‘Potion Blues’ were great fun.

Even the fiery Lord Capulet, played in commanding fashion by young Alex Gomersall enjoyed the odd lighter moment or two, ‘Not Ready for the Wedding’, his duet with Reyna Blair a shining example of this.

By his side as Juliet’s mother was Liberty Holloway, who like Amelia managed to strike a fine balance between light and shade and put in a performance way beyond her years.

In the rival household, Robbie Brown and Hollie Lough ruled the roost as Lord and Lady Montague while Ronan Wood and Jack McIver Pitt were in great form as Romeo’s right hand men Benvolio and Mercutio, with Jack bringing a touch of Vegas to proceedings with ‘Queen Mab’- far more entertaining than the bizarre speech of the same name in the original text.

Trying to keep a lid on the escalating tensions between the Montagues and Capulets, Christopher Fagan’s Prince Escalus was a real presence on stage.

The large cast, which also included Lewis McKay as Friar John and Elizabeth Rich as Balthazar took on the Bard and won.

A fine effort from both pupils and their teachers.