Arundel Festival: focusing on a legendary love story

The tragedy of those star-crossed lovers will unfurl amid the splendours of The Collector Earl’ʼs Garden at Arundel Castle for the Arundel Festival.

Romeo & Juliet is being brought to West Sussex by GB Theatre Company who will also be performing Twelfth Night.

Directing Romeo & Juliet is Neil Sheppeck who has the fondest memories of just what a terrific place to play Arundel is.

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“The surroundings were so beautiful and the audience were so warm. Having the audience so close was great. It felt really special.”

GB specialise in period costume productions: “Last year was very Elizabethan, but this year I wanted to go more Renaissance Italy, where the play is set. They have to find a few different costumes for the Italian doublet and hose!”

Otherwise, the emphasis is very much on the clarity of the story-telling: “I just really wanted to focus obviously on the love between Romeo and Juliet, but also the fact that their love seems to be what brings the families together in the end.

“The feud between the two families has been going on longer than anybody can remember. It takes them losing their precious children for them to realise that they should put the feud aside. The play doesn’t really give a reason for the feud. You think of the Middle East or Northern Ireland, you think of the prejudice between two factions - places where hatred has just become part of their culture.

“Within that story there are some tremendous theatrical moments. It’s all about trying to make these individual scenes as memorable as possible and to give them as much depth as you can.”

Neil comes to it all from an acting background and continues to act: “But I tend to think it is better for a director when you know how actors feel, what actors want. I knew I always wanted to act, but I also always wanted to direct. In a way, I don’t see why artists need to do just the one thing.”

Romeo & Juliet will be performed on Thursday, August 25, 7.30pm. Castle grounds open: 5.30pm; The Collector Earl’s Garden gates open: 6.30pm (also Friday, August 26, 7.30pmn Twelfth Night – or What You Will; and Saturday, August 27, 7.30pm, Romeo & Juliet.