The proliferation of open-air, promenade-style productions continues as Feelgood Theatre returns to Manchester’s Heaton Park for the second summer running.
Romeo and Juliet is a staple of outdoor theatre but Caroline Clegg’s production adds enough new ideas and makes clever use of the park’s striking locations to make you experience the Bard’s oft-performed tale of doomed love with fresh eyes.
A lot of this is down to Nia Coleman’s totally committed performance as Juliet, who has a palpable chemistry with Ned Cooper’s Romeo and portrays the transformation of the play’s pivotal character from loved up teen to a woman pushed to the edge brilliantly. By the time she learns of Romeo’s banishment you believe her fully capable of bashing her brains out with Tybalt’s bones and more besides.
Elsewhere Nicola Jayne Ingram strikes all the right comedic and dramatic notes as the Nurse and Toby Hadoke’s Glaswegian bruiser of a Friar conveys both the character’s compassion and a familiarity with the “violent delights” he warns Romeo about.
Aside from an unnecessary time-travelling prologue, the early scenes run along largely expected lines. But as night’s cloak falls the production steps up a gear and pulls off a viscerally effecting coup de theatre that sees the audience being lead through the magnificent, candle-lit rooms of 18th century Heaton Hall to view Juliet’s death bed. And as she and Romeo and exit hand in hand into the darkness and the cast sing Sting’s Fields of Gold, one of a number of well-chosen contemporary songs, the transformative effect is complete.