Love&Madness Theatre Company Interview

February 4, 2010

Love&Madness Theatre Company, formed by Neil Sheppeck in 2000 with the aim of bringing classical theatre to a younger and wider audience, brings their productions of Romeo and Juliet and A Taste of Honey to Pavilion Theatre next week. Here Sheppeck talks to Caomhan Keane about the difficulties of cutting Shakespeare down to size and his reasons for casting Carl Barat and Sadie Frost in his current London season.

What attracted you to putting on Romeo and Juliet and A Taste of Honey?

All of us have been young, all of us have had parental figures so by being true to the story and by setting the plays in situations than people can identify with I think that’s what keeps it fresh.

Romeo and Juliet has been specifically designed for young audiences, with contemporary dress that talks to young people today.

We kept Taste of Honey in the period when it was set because it is a play that is very specific to its period in its attitudes to the black sailor and the homosexual and again the themes resonate to work to anyone, regardless of when it was set in.

There are people out there who take issue with people who put a modern sheen on the classics because they believe it distracts people from the core issues at the heart of the plot.

A classical text is all about the words, the look should serve the text, do something that reduces any boundaries and barriers . While there is certainly a place for plays in their own context, there is no one way of doing something and there is definitely a place for productions that allow the costume, by simplifying it or updating it, to not get in the way.

What challenges did you find in cutting such a vast Shakespearean piece as Romeo and Juliet so that just 5 people could perform it?

We played with some ideas and we actually found that in a way that it brought the story down to bare bones, you really intensify and focus on what’s being said. In doubling up the character as well we came across many similarities in characters and scenes. Such as the doubling up of Tybalt and Capulet, who are like an adult and youngster version of each other and Mercutio and the friar who are both Romeo’s confidantes and people whom he goes to for help. So we were quite specific in our pairing which helped tell the story rather than just being a necessity because the cast was small.

You are currently working on productions of Fool For Love and Richard III with Sadie Frost and Carl Barat.What about these two particular performers attracted you?

Sadie has absolute commitment and dedication. She really wanted to work with me so we sat down and I brought up Fool For Love, which I have wanted to direct for years. We started talking about who would play opposite her. I wanted to use one of our regular actors who are fairly strong and she said ‘meet Carl, whose a mate of mine. He really wants to act. He may not be right for this, he might be right for something else but I think you should meet him.”

What impressed me so much is that he has a lot of access to sensitivity and he completely connects with the words. His comic timing is fantastic so when we decided to do this there was a lot of promise there and we have come along way.

There are certain people, such as Michael Billington, who object to the casting of celebrities over trained, experienced actors?

I think on press night a lot of the press had daggers ready. As far as who gets the right to perform I don’t think anybody has any right to decide that.  Just because Sadie and Carl haven’t done a lot of theatre before doesn’t mean that they are not allowed to do it now. No one should be told they are not allowed perform. By having them on board it attracts more people into the performances which means were getting people who wouldn’t normally come to the theatre, Libertines fans and fashionitas who might want to catch a glance of Kate Moss or Jude Law. Once you get them in there you can show them and charm them about how good theatre can be.

Romeo&Juliet Tue 9th- Fri 12th February (Matinees Tue-Thu @ 1pm, Evening Wed-Fri @ 8pm)

A Taste of Honey Sat 13 February 8pm €23/20


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