REVIEW: Heartbreak Productions’ show is a match made in heaven

The I Love Pope Francis T-shirts and bottles of holy water passed by the pontiff himself nearly came to grief as an act of God sent a gust of wind through the religious stall.

A friendly Staffie raced through the crowd, swerving the decorated cake to snaffle the ham at a birthday picnic before bounding into the performance arena.

Ben Burman and Phillipa Flynn as Romeo and Juliet in Heatbreak Productions show.

Ben Burman and Phillipa Flynn as Romeo and Juliet in Heatbreak Productions show.

Unpredictable events such as this make watching open-air theatre such a joy, especially when it’s a play that you’ve seen done many times before.

Heartbreak Production’s touring version of Romeo and Juliet raises the bar on those that have gone before.

It strikes a chord with today’s audiences by using football as its theme and runs nearly as long as two premier division games.

Members of the warring houses of Montague and Capulet sprint out in football shirts and the fatal knife fight between Capulet and Mercutio resembles the ugly face of soccer rivalry.

It’s very much a game of two halves, the lightness of carefree, secret love balanced by the darkness of feuding and revenge.

Played in the round, it’s a fast, very energetic production with the five performers running up and down ramps leading to the main platform, racing around the outside to change costumes (which they do several times) and dancing up a storm in the lighter moments of the show.

Ben Burman is the personification of Romeo. He’s charismatic, handsome and is a bit of a tease... the girls in the audience at Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens loved it when he stripped to his waist to reveal a glimpse of his Calvin Kleins. More importantly, he’s a fine actor who engages his audience throughout.

Phillipa Flynn brings a new dimension to the role of Juliet, making her much more spirited and headstrong than the traditional approach to the character and her short dresses add to the contemporary look of the production.

Spectators are encouraged to imagine they are sightseers in Italy - with the action set in a marketplace in Verona where stalls offer football souvenirs and romantic gifts and the show’s programme resembles a travel guide.

Well worth the journey, Romeo and Juliet continues its run at Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens tonight (Sunday, June 23) at 6.15pm. If you can’t make it, there’s plenty of time to catch the tale of star-crossed lovers at Nottingham Castle on July 13 and 14 at 7pm.