Why must I be a teenager in love? CODA Croydon presents Romeo and Juliet in Wandle Park

By - Tuesday 7th August, 2018

Love was definitely not lost or laboured,in this lovingly staged take on Shakespeare’s ode to doomed romance

Tom McGowan as Mercutio, Will Wilson as Montague, Tom Skinner as Samson, and Alfie Bird as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet.
Photo by Michael Hall, used with permission.

My quiz-team friends will confirm that I “don’t do Shakespeare”, but I know from CODA’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in 2016 that it is possible to enjoy his works when you’re not worrying about memorising quotes for your O level (GCSE, in old money). This year’s CODA production Romeo and Juliet was one of the plays that I actually studied, the other being Julius Caesar (N.B.: CODA, this is not a suggestion for next year). Two things struck me during the evening. Firstly, a lot of the innuendo in the dialogue had gone right over my teenage head. Secondly, the themes of forbidden love and blind hatred resonate across the centuries and did not seem out of place in 21st-century Wandle Park. In fact, I was slightly worried at one point that Mercutio’s energetic curse on both houses would elicit an unexpected response from park users outside the bandstand.

Liz Fox as Lady Capulet, Megan Claridge as Juliet, and Phoebe Dunster as the Nurse.
Photo by Michael Hall, used with permission.

CODA actors delivered the word-perfect performance that we have come to expect from them, but there didn’t seem to be quite as many opportunities as usual for innovative uses of the bandstand (my personal favourite has to be soldiers arriving on scooters). Using red and white was a simple but effective way of distinguishing between Montagues and Capulets; helpful if your knowledge of supporting characters was a bit rusty. An acoustic version of ‘Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love?’ was a fitting accompaniment to Romeo and Juliet’s earnest flirtation.

Casting a young pair in the title roles was a shrewd move, and Luca Crawford and Megan Claridge gave their characters the youthful intensity necessary to carry the narrative along. Some of the remaining cast seemed more comfortable than others in their roles. As well as Tom McGowan’s Mercutio, we particularly enjoyed the performances of Phoebe Dunster as the no-nonsense Nurse and Danielle Perrimon as the Reverend Mother (Friar Lawrence in the original), dispensing comfort and advice in equal measure. On such a hot evening it was challenging at times to maintain concentration during a first act that lasted nearly two hours, but that’s what the man wrote, and CODA delivered faithfully against a backdrop of even more distractions than usual. These included dog walkers, cyclists, commuters, trams, children in the play area and a police helicopter. We learned via social media during the interval that there had been a grass fire on the opposite side of the park earlier, but thankfully that had been dealt with before curtain-up.

CODA and the bandstand are a great combination. I shall crack open the Pimm’s again next year, as long as they don’t decide to put on Julius Caesar.

Sue Harling

Sue Harling

Sue Harling moved to Croydon from Leicester twenty-three years ago via Bath, Krefeld and other parts of London. She lives with her family in Waddon, where there is plentiful access to her favourite pastimes: tribute bands, cafes, choral singing and quizzes. In her spare time she’s a civil servant.

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  • blath8@googlemail.com

    As always, a thoroughly enjoyable performance – loved every minute (ignored the trams etc …). Can’t wait to see what they choose to do next year :-)

  • Alec Selvon-Bruce

    A highlight of our summer. It was a wonderful setting and appreciated how the actors made full use of the space available. Fantastic performance and agree with Sue on the casting choices of Luca and Megan for the key roles. This was my daughters first experience to Shakespeare and they loved it.