Shakespeare Untold: Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner's Tale)

Adapting Romeo and Juliet for a younger audience is by no means an easy feat. Shakespeare’s original play presents two unique problems for children - namely the difficulty of understanding the Elizabethan English, as well as dealing with the adult content. On both these fronts Shakespeare Untold: Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner’s Tale) is a resounding success, seamlessly modernising Romeo and Juliet without losing its heart along the way.

The success of this hinges in large part on the quality of Sally Lofthouse’s performance. Lofthouse attacks the titular role with gusto, rapidly embodying a variety of characters as she takes us through the events of the last few days in Verona.

The production takes Shakespeare’s core narrative and reframes it within the eyes of the party planner - a woman given the task of organising the Capulet ball. While it isn’t a radical re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, the script is predominantly original, with sporadic lines from Shakespeare’s source. This ensures that rather than being Romeo and Juliet-lite, the production has plenty to offer for young and new audiences alike. For first-timers, the play serves as an accessible entry point into the Shakespearean canon, with enough lions and birthday cake to satisfy any six year old. The script juggles the drama’s darker moments with an infectious joy and wit, preventing it from becoming too troubling for younger viewers. For those familiar with the play, this production serves as a great one woman Shakespeare (even if productions containing the line “hash tag - smiley face, smiley face, party hat” aren’t normally your cup of tea).

The success of this hinges in large part on the quality of Sally Lofthouse’s performance. Lofthouse attacks the titular role with gusto, rapidly embodying a variety of characters as she takes us through the events of the last few days in Verona. Moving from character to character, the actress utilises everything at her disposal - in some scenes physically embodying Romeo and Juliet, in others turning a broom into the elder Capulet. The effect is enthralling; it allows the actress to shepherd the audience without them ever forgetting the party planner’s own voice.

Unfortunately the play stumbles in the last quarter, as the events of the retelling catch up with the present. The moment we learn of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths lacks the poignancy of the earlier murders of Mercutio and Tybalt. Where the earlier scene manages to convey a sense of violence and brutality using only balloons and a brush (keeping it suitable for children), the passing of the star-crossed lovers is stolid in comparison when revealed through a text message. By removing a sense of immediacy from their deaths, what should be a powerful moment is instead made inert. While this is understandable given the audience, it is a shame that the ultimate tragedy is backed away from, given the way the show dealt with death elsewhere.

For family viewing, Shakespeare Untold: Romeo and Juliet(The Party Planner’s Tale) is a delight – hilarious and moving in equal measure.

Reviews by Alexander Gillespie

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The Blurb

The story of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, as seen by the Capulet Ball's party planner. This family-friendly series from an award-winning team is the Fringe debut of London's world-renowned venue, Shakespeare’s Globe. 'Bringing a fun twist to Shakespeare. An unforgettable experience for young and old' (Metro,Critics' Choice). See separate listings for sister show Shakespeare Untold: Titus Andronicus (The Piemaker's Tale) and double bill ticket to see both productions at a special reduced price.