Review: Romeo and Juliet, Captive Audience

The balcony scene with Jessica Waller as Juliet and Philip Lamb as Romeo

Quite how the young Captive Audience cast remembered all their lines for their latest production Romeo and Juliet I have no idea.

But it was a challenge they mastered perfectly in order to stage an incredibly polished version of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedy.

The play, part of the Belper Arts Festival, is billed as one of its the key events and it certainly embodies the strong community ethos of the month-long event.

A 17-strong cast of teenagers are aided by a creative team of adults, led by Larry Waller, who set up the group to offer acting opportunities to young people in the Belper area.

What makes this production stand out from others is that it was entirely dependant on their acting talent. We all know the plot, the stage is practically bare for this show and the costumes are all simple – jeans, T-shirts and pumps. So, with no distractions, all eyes were on the players and they all performed with confidence and bucketfuls of talent.

Although Waller’s version is set pretty much in the present the original language of Shakespeare was maintained, emphasising the modern relevance and versatility of The Bard’s writing and themes.

What the cast therefore had to do was get to grips with that complex language and bring it into the 21st century in a way that would engage the audience. One woman watching last night declared that she was moved to tears, so I think Captive Audience can tick that particular box.

I was going to pick out a couple of the cast for a special mention and then my list started to lengthen so there was no-one to leave out – although I must just say that the lighting and sound by Jamie Vella is excellent.

The whole production is executed with a pace and vigour that will ensure you don’t get bored – even though it is more than two hours long – so if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, don’t miss out there are still some left. If you have booked then you are in for a great evening of drama from a team of spirited young people.

The cast is: Romeo, Philip Lamb and George Comber (different shows); Juliet, Jessica Waller and Dolcie Stewart-Douglas (different shows); Friars, Isabel Hawley and Solomon Thomas; Nurse, Molly Boursnell; Capulet, Peter Lamb; Lady Capulet, Emma Nelson; Montague, George Cooke; Tybalt, Ben Waller; Paris, Ben Pimperton; Mercutio, Maddie Bogue; Benvolio, Leo Pedder; Prince and Friar John, Dan Pimperton; Peter and others, Ben Dawson and The Apothercary and others, Jesamine Machin.

The creative team is: directors Larry Waller and Sheila Kay Sly; assistant directors, Sarah Holme, Geoff Moule and Henry Stubbs; marketing Paul Davies; stage manager Caroline Hawley; music Ben and Sophie Waller; lighting and sound Jamie Vella and backstage Tracy Comber and Lucy Pedder.

Romeo and Juliet by Captive Audience can be seen at The Strutts Centre, Belper, at 7.30pm from tonight until May 18, with a matinee at 2.30pm on the Saturday.  For tickets go to or telephone 07779118834.