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A Tender Thing review at the Dukes, Lancaster – ‘moving and intimate’

Jenny Lee, Ian Blower, Ruby Henderson and Lucas Button in A Tender Thing at The Dukes, Lancaster. Photo: Darren Andrews Jenny Lee, Ian Blower, Ruby Henderson and Lucas Button in A Tender Thing at The Dukes, Lancaster. Photo: Darren Andrews
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Ask most people what they think would have happened if Shakespeare’s young lovers Romeo and Juliet had lived to a ripe old age and they might suggest infidelities and divorce. Fortunately the National Theatre’s deputy artistic director Ben Power is somewhat less cynical, imagining instead that the star-crossed couple manage to retain their love for each other (not without a hint of bickering) through thick and thin until illness deals Juliet a terminal blow and Romeo has to face up to the possibility of spending his final years alone.

With an intimate in the round setting, director Louie Ingram bases the action in the northern resort of Morecambe, taking inspiration from memories of her own late grandparents’ lifelong love and annual seaside holidays there.  It could be overly cloying but it works surprisingly well – Power seamlessly weaves together Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet text (albeit adapted from more than just their mouths) with a sprinkling of his sonnets.

Importantly it’s played as a four-hander. While Ian Blower and Jenny Lee deliver the lines as the older couple, Lucas Button and Ruby Henderson – both successful graduates of the Dukes Young Actors’ company – shadow them in wordless movement as the young lovers. Blower is particularly moving when he delivers Romeo’s young words through an older voice and Lee’s death scene is a lump in the throat moment. Mark Melville’s retro music and wave sounds integrate perfectly and Rachel Daniels’ versatile design is the fifth member of the cast.

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Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers live to ripe old age in this moving and intimate piece set in Morecambe