ONE could almost say that Shakespeare Live Theatre Company's latest production of the Warwickshire bard’s Romeo & Juliet, is a tragedy in the making.

Shakespeare’s familiar story is based around the family feud between the Capulet and Montague families, with the star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a Victorian London gangland warfare setting.

Certainly, it started off well, with the best of intentions, in the atmospheric setting of Cleeve House in Seend on Monday, before coming to its inevitably tragic climax in the Capulet family tomb.

Along the way, there was a superb performance by Anabella Fairgrieve as Juliet, whose interpretation of her character was quite literally the best I have ever seen, subtle, sensitive, with intonation and emphasis in all the right places.

Sadly, the programme notes don't furnish any details of her previous acting experience, but she gave a truly outstanding performance that was the highlight of the evening.

She was ably supported by Jake Davies as Romeo, whose interpretation of his character was a bit more one-dimensional and less expressive.

In another first for me, two females played Mercutio (Claire Wallis) and Tybalt (Sofia Caley), in what I thought was an interesting departure from the norm and a bold move by the co-directors and casting team that worked very well. Both gave sterling performances.

The cast was completed by Gill Morrell as Nurse, Matt Rushton as Benvolio, Colin Jackson and Liz Hume as Lord and Lady Montague, Graham Paton and Stephanie Mitchell as Lord and Lady Capulet, Edward Cooper as Abraham, Ryan Aherin as Sampson, Nanouri Winchester as Balthazar, Penny Clegg as Gregory, John Jameson-Davis as Father Laurence, Paul Martin as Ring Master, Saili Katebe as Paris and Simon Reeves as The Prince.

My criticisms, such as they are, are reserved for the co-direction by Lauren Davis and Phoebe Fung, which at times was inspired, highly imaginative and innovative.

But the play was marred by their incomprehensible use of what I can only describe as electronic techno-music which shockingly drowned out some of the key scenes, particularly Mercutio's well-known Queen Mab speech.

However, having said that, this production is worth seeing. Performances take place from Monday to Saturday, July 8-13, with six of the seven performances starting at 8pm and a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Saturday evening’s Gala Night includes varied live entertainment from 6pm and during the interval.

If you wish to see it, tickets are still available, with prices ranging from £10 to £22.50, with a £5 discount for students and U19s. To book, go to or call 07780 938107.

John Baker