We meet Sharon (Joanne Seymour) and Barry (David Nellist) getting ready for their Zoom. They are behind with putting their props together, and a life-size figure they ordered hasn’t quite come up to scratch.
This is the latest online production from Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch (see reviews of Here I Am and Misfits): perhaps their most ambitious yet and certainly the one which will give you a chance to pour a drink and have a chuckle.
We are in the company of a middle-aged couple who met at school and bonded over a set text of Romeo and Juliet. Now, going lockdown crazy, they are performing a version of it in their living room to help out nephew Alex (Jack Scannell-Wood).
For a complex play which often nudges three hours in running time, it is some feat for this pair to do it in just under eighty minutes. It is just farcical, it strips back the play to its bare bones.
As both Sharon (a wannabee stage performer if ever there was one) and Barry (wondering what the lads from work will think) come to terms with quick changes, snipped passages, Zoom backgrounds, and the Bard, we have a lot of fun.
This is an accessible piece which uses the story of Romeo and Juliet as a springboard for this couple to reflect on their own courting days, when Barry was fickle and sweet on another girl.
In between asides (“she’s just 14 … I know, right? Not even in Sunderland”) and moments which verge on the farcical (Barry’s moment, the Tybalt cut-out which is someone rather familiar, this play clips along in a hugely entertaining way.
It is actors playing non-actors playing characters, but slipping out of those characters, too. Often the mask slips, as it would in an entertainment for your neighbours. At other times, the situation of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers comes through, with a clever use of accents, makeshift costumes, and quick decisions.
The audience feels involved with and co-conspirators in the action. We know nothing about this couple except their 80s photo and sofa cushions with their initials on, but by the end we feel we have known them all our lives.
Both actors display enviable comic timing and a clear chemistry with each other. Their play is a funny, fast, and coherent piece echoing the convincing depiction of a bored couple still in love after all these years.
There are the wonky wigs and broken props you may recall from The Generation Game. There’s a lighthearted yet concerned bit of banter about smoking.
I thought Sharon ‘n’ Barry Do Romeo and Juliet was a comic highlight of the digital theatre space and urge you to go and join the fun. It’s directed by Douglas Rintoul and produced by Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.
It is running until 6 March. Book here – tickets are £8. Highly recommended.
Image credit: Mark Sepple.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Sharon ‘n’ Barry ….