‘Romeo and Juliet’ not all gloom for travelling troupe

The Barden Party cast (front from left) Caleb James, Laura Irish, Sam McIlroy, (back from left)...
The Barden Party cast (front from left) Caleb James, Laura Irish, Sam McIlroy, (back from left) Matt Bruce, Wiremu Tuhiwai, Mackenzie Gardner and Ollie Howlett are taking on Romeo and Juliet this weekend. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A travelling troupe of troubadours are putting a fresh twist on a tragic tale.

An adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the latest work that Nelson-based performance ensemble The Barden Party have set their sights on for this year’s Dunedin Fringe Festival.

The Barden Party is an authentic vintage theatre experience combined with modern twists that was born during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Previously, the group has adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing, but Romeo and Juliet is the first of Shakespeare’s tragedies the group has tackled.

Director Laura Irish said tragedies were a tad trickier to tell than the typical Shakespearean tale.

The group was known for incorporating family friendly fun into their shows and the content of a tragedy could be a bit heavy.

"You see a lot of Shakespearean tragedies and they’re sad and dark from the very beginning, but Romeo and Juliet is technically written as a comedy for the first half of the show until the very first tragic thing happens," Ms Irish said.

The show was split into two distinct halves — a "true Shakespearean comedy" and a tragedy, still packed with comedic parts.

Due to this creative decision, Ms Irish said this meant the tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet hit "quite a bit harder" in their version.

"The characters are so fun and loveable and they don’t know, until tragedy hits, that they are in a tragedy — much like real life, actually."

"I think we’ve really hit the nail on the head with bringing the fun party aspect of Barden Party and then we surprise the audience when the story still takes a normal turn."

The Barden Party will be performing two more shows — at Larnach Castle tonight at 6.30pm and at the Waitati Opera House Gardens tomorrow at 5pm.