Multitalented Cat Prescott, musician, composer, actor, singer, comedian and director, was a founding member of Nottingham Shakespeare Company, playing Puck and Assistant Directing our first summer show, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
(Left: Isla Dwight (Snug), Cat Prescott (Puck), David Watts (Snout) and Katrin Salyers (Titania) playing next to the Robin Hood Statue outside Nottingham Castle in 2019)
Cat returned to us for 2022's Comedy of Errors playing the Courtezan, caught in the machinations of one of Shakespeare's more convoluted plotlines!
(Right: Cat as the Courtezan in a promo shot for the revival shows in September 2022 at Beeston's Arc Cinema)
We were overjoyed when Cat offered to direct Romeo and Juliet for us and we asked her to tell us more...
Why have you chosen Romeo and Juliet and particularly now?
"Romeo and Juliet" is the first Shakespeare play I ever properly encountered. I remember standing on the stage of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on a school trip as a 10-year-old, delivering Tybalt's fighting words of "I hate hell, all Montagues and thee" to a classmate, and I was hooked. I think a lot of people's first experiences of Shakespeare are of sitting in a classroom and reading the text, rather than in the audience or performing onstage, and then sadly not everyone gets swept away by the action and spectacle of the drama if it isn't brought to life from the page to the stage.
It's been nearly 2 decades since I first fell in love with this play, and although I've enjoyed performing and studying a wide range of his works, this is the play I keep returning to whenever I think about directing, and bringing my own creativity and passion to the stage. I hope to either renew or ignite that same excitement about this play in our audience members - whether they are regular theatregoers and Shakespearean aficionados or perhaps they never really had any interest in Shakespeare at all until now. After 430 years, thousands of interpretations and about 20 years of my own enthusiasm, I'm thrilled to now have the opportunity to work with the Nottingham Shakespeare Company and such a talented cast of actors, to present a story that is entertaining, heartbreaking and timeless; bringing the heat of a wild Verona Summer to Nottingham around Valentine's Day.
The tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet" may be well-known, but I still hope to keep audiences on the edges of their seats throughout this fast-paced, dynamic production. I am firmly of the opinion that the first 2 acts of the play are established as a comedy, lulling spectators into a false sense of security with blossoming romance, lewd jokes on every other line and a great deal of humour that then serves only to deepen the impact of the tragedy when this is inevitably subverted. The humour dies with the violent and drastic tone shift at the beginning of Act 3, as each rash action or miscommunication leads to preventable disaster, devastation and death.
One of the ways our "Romeo and Juliet" stands out is through our genderblind casting approach, leading to a production where 8 out of 10 of our cast at some point or other play a character more traditionally performed as having a gender that is different from the actor's own. As such, whilst in the original performances all the actors would have been men and boys, our romantic lead roles are both being played by young women.
As a queer director, I am especially excited to explore the gendered elements of the text, as Romeo is repeatedly accused of being "womanish" or his "manhood" questioned, whilst Juliet takes a transgressive and active role; repeatedly drawing a dagger with intent to use it if necessary. Led by the original text, we explore themes of sex, sexuality and gender as we play with expectations of who wears skirts, swords, both or neither. Our inclusive approach adds a fresh spin to the "boy meets girl" trope, as well as giving our diverse cast of actors the opportunity to showcase their ability regardless of their gender, class, race, orientation, disability or any other trait that may otherwise have been a barrier to being cast in any particular role.
It is a challenging time for many people right now - especially in the arts and entertainment industry - and a night at theatre is one of the best ways to enjoy yourself amongst the difficulties and uncertainties many are facing. With concession ticketing available for our evening performances, as well as free no-frills Saturday matinees so that everyone can access our shows regardless of means, we are immensely grateful to all who continue to support live theatre and all the hard work that has gone into this production. We are a grassroots acting company that operates on a profit-share basis, so each ticket sale directly supports each of our actors in this tough economic climate. Whilst we have had a great deal of fun rehearsing together, there is no show without our audiences to laugh, cry and be moved by our performance, so please join us for the Nottingham Shakespeare Company's 2024 production of "Romeo and Juliet" this February.