It’s Shakespeare... but not as you know it

Rehearsal pics from Merely Theatres Shakespeare production
Rehearsal pics from Merely Theatres Shakespeare production

Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet.

The dashing male lead Romeo and his beautiful female lover Juliet.

But what if the roles were reversed? Or what if both characters were male, or female?

For 2017, Merely Theatre embark on second national tour of gender-blind work with two of Shakespeare’s best loved shows performed in repertory: Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night.

Merely’s commitment to gender-blind practice means actors rehearse their five-hand productions in male-female pairs, generating twice the amount of ideas for each role, while halving the rehearsal time for each individual.

A man and a woman play each set of parts alternately across the venues on the tour; a male Juliet, a female Malvolio - any combination is possible.

Artistic Director, Ellis Scott said: “For us the gender-blind system is about ensuring 50/50 employment for men and women.

“We’re not focussed on how having a certain part played by an actor of a certain gender changes it. We just want to put on the plays to the best of our ability. We’re leading the way with modern standards of gender equality in theatre employment, so we can now concentrate on making sure every moment of each play is best served by whoever is playing the part.

“Though the twinning system does come with advantages. Every actor benefits from having another actors ideas on a role. There is no competition in the room. If one actor is sitting more ‘on centre’, a character that suits the actor’s natural casting, it can really assist the other actor in the pair to find choices that they might have otherwise missed.”

Speaking on why he picked the two plays, he added: “In Romeo and Juliet you have Shakespeare’s most heart wrenching tragedy and Twelfth Night is a play packed with more hilarious characters than any of his others. They make a great pair!”

Merely Theatre will bring Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet to Lowther Pavilion on Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23.

Tickets are priced at £12.50 for adults. To book, visit www.lowtherpavilion.co.uk or call the box office on 01253 794 221.