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Carnival of doomed romance; ROMEO AND JULIET Stafford Castle.

Byline: NEIL BONNER

IN the end it still goes tragically wrong for the doomed lovers, of course, but in this vibrant production their timeless tale gets off to a toe-tapping start.

For reasons best known to himself, director Peter Rowe has chosen to set the story in 1950s Latin America, beginning with a colourful fiesta.

For a full half-hour before the scheduled start time we are treated to some wonderful, crowd-pleasing music and dancing before the party atmosphere morphs into the story that visitors from all over the Midlands have trekked to the shadow of an often windswept fortress to see.

This annual council-funded openair Shakespeare festival is now one of the most prestigious events of its type in the UK and this year's hilltop offering maintains the high standards it has achieved over the years.

Newcomer Poppy Drayton does a fine job as the nave young Juliet, opposite Dwane Walcott as Romeo. Leah Bracknell, best known for playing Zoe Tate in Emmerdale, is perfectly cast as Lady Capulet. But it's Nicola Blackman who steals the show as an outrageous Caribbean nurse.

With live music, dramatic knife fights and, of course, some tender love scenes, all delivered in a refreshingly accessible manner, this production has plenty to delight all but the most critical of purists.

Romeo and Juliet continues at Stafford Castle until July 14.

NEIL BONNER
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 8, 2012
Words:227
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