Love, revenge and 86,000 gallons of water: Why you can’t miss Romeo and Juliet’s tragic tale at Victoria Baths

Manchester audiences will experience the romance and tragedy of a mysterious criminal underworld, in a site-specific reimagining of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

This autumn the Grade II listed Victoria Baths will house the part-seated, part-promenade performance, which will be the second in the site-specific season from new contemporary arts centre HOME.   

Walter Meierjohann, Artistic Director for the company, will be making his directorial debut for HOME with Shakespeare’s tragic classic and promises it will be a unique experience.

Romeo and Juliet is a story of love, hatred, and revenge, and we could not have a more evocative and atmospheric setting than the stunning Victoria Baths,” he said.

“Our take on Romeo & Juliet is a contemporary fairytale, set not during the bright, beautiful Renaissance but an Eastern European criminal underworld, with the wonderful music of the Balkans.”

HOME has debuted by announcing a season dedicated to site-specific performances in found spaces, with Romeo and Juliet the second in line.

The season began with ANU productions critically acclaimed, sell-out performance Angel Meadows, performed in a dilapidated Ancoats pub.

Romeo and Juliet promises to be equally distinctive as the Victoria Baths is set to have 86,000 gallons of water placed in one of its three pools for the run of the production.

Walter Meierjohann said: “I always intended to do Romeo and Juliet as a gritty urban piece.

“But as soon as I stepped into Victoria Baths I fell in love with the building, and it changed everything.”

Meierjohann hopes the ‘faded beauty’ of the baths will allow audiences to rediscover both Shakespeare, and Manchester.

“The baths are beautiful, and Shakespeare is the greatest writer, so I hope it inspires them,” he added.

An impressive creative team is set to bring the exciting and original production of Romeo and Juliet to life.

Haunting design by acclaimed American designer Ti Green, and a live Balkan-style score composed by Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia, will create the atmospheric Eastern European setting.

Meierjohann added Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica’s work, most commonly known for his absurd and black comedies in the 1990’s, has the quality he wants to evoke in Romeo and Juliet.

HOME has also brought in choreographer Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy, who designed parts of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony under HOME patron Danny Boyle’s direction.

Kenrick, of award-winning hip hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment, has designed the movement choreography which will feature as an integral part of the production.

HOME is the result of the merger between The Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, vowing to be Manchester’s new home of contemporary arts.

Set to open in spring 2015, HOME will makes its base on First Street North site, just off Whitworth Street West.

Promising to be a new HOME for curiosity seekers, the work produced will be dedicated to risk taking and portraying the world through Mancunian eyes.

The building itself will house a 500-seat theatre, a 150-seat studio space, a gallery space, five cinema screens, digital production and broadcast facilities plus restaurants and a café.

As part of HOME’s commitment to working with the Manchester community, professional dancers, film makers and sound designers will lead 19 workshops, open to all, this August.

Work created in the workshops, which are free, will be showcased in an exhibition named Art at the Baths, alongside performances of Romeo and Juliet.

In a further attempt to involve the community, a chorus ensemble of drama undergraduates from Manchester Metropolitan will join the thirteen-strong professional cast each night.

Manchester’s Alex Felton takes on star-crossed lover Romeo, after finishing a world tour of Bristol Old Vic’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the role of Lysander.

Romeo’s Juliet, Sara Vickers, last seen at the Royal Exchange in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, recently played Joan Thursday in ITV’s top-rated Inspector Morse spin-off Endeavour.

Romeo and Juliet runs from September 10 to October 4 at Manchester Victoria Baths. For tickets and more information, visit http://homemcr.org/romeo-and-juliet

Image courtesy of HOME, with thanks

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