A performance of Romeo and Juliet – where it happened

Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

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The Kings theatre in Southsea has been entertaining theatregoers since 1907 and now it is spreading its wings abroad to promote Portsmouth.

In its aspiration to show off the city to the world, the theatre has teamed up with an Italian playhouse – Teatro Stabile Verona.

As a part of their partnership the two theatres are set to produce a professional outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet.

Chief executive David Cooper said: ‘It will be sited in Juliet’s courtyard underneath the balcony.

‘I don’t think that there is a better place to stage a production of Romeo and Juliet.’

‘The actors are going to perform initially in the courtyard and then move up to the terrace which is gorgeous.’

The artistic director at Teatro Stabile, Paolo Valerio, will direct the production which will start in June.

‘There will be eight weeks of Italian and then three weeks in English which will be performed by the actors who we take over,’ said Mr Cooper.

The Italian cast has been filled with recognised names from the country’s theatre scene to attract crowds from far and wide.

‘We want to promote the experience which is why we are looking at getting young professionals,’ added Mr Cooper.

‘It will provide them the opportunity to participate in something completely different.’

The friendship was formed after the Kings’ youth theatre visited the area last summer.

Mr Cooper said: ‘We are also partnered with a youth theatre in Verona which is beneficial for the young actors.

‘While they were out their they also did some workshops with our partnering theatre.

‘After the trip to Verona they contacted us and were excited about partnering with us.’

Through their ongoing relationship the theatres have swapped ideas on how they work and the programme of plays that they have to offer.

‘We are starting to get a different viewpoint because we find, especially with the European placements, that they provide a totally new outlook on theatre,’ added Mr Cooper.

‘It is interesting to see how they work, how they are funded and their structure – it is a very different way of working to us.

‘Verona were very keen to work with us because of what they perceive to be our strength in marketing and the commerciality of the way we work.’

To exchange more than ideas the Kings Theatre Trust is hoping to send over produce from Portsmouth.

‘We held an Italian day at the theatre where we contacted businesses from the region and they sent over local produce handmade pasta, wine, chorizo and peppers,’ said Mr Cooper.

‘I then had the idea to do the same – so taking Portsmouth to Verona.’

Mr Cooper also aims to share the significance of Dickens, Conan Doyle and Shakespeare to Portsmouth with Verona, and staff at the Kings hope to build a cultural understanding between the two countries.

‘It is to try to create some connections and to exchange cultural ideas,’ he said.

‘We decided to do this now as a part of the progression of the theatre, we’ve never really been in the position to be able to do something like this.

‘And we didn’t have the presence that we now have which is a reflection on Portsmouth and the theatre.’

To make Portsmouth more accessible to the tourist market David asked a previous exchange student to translate the Visit Portsmouth Guide into Italian.

‘Michaela, who came to us from Verona as a part of the Erasmus programme went back to Italy and decided to do this for us,’ he said.

‘This was what we needed to promote Portsmouth as a mechanism to get other theatres around the world to partner with us.

‘She is now helping us strengthen our ties with Verona as she is working with the theatre.’

After its run in Verona, Portsmouth audiences will be able to watch the production of Romeo and Juliet when it is staged at the Kings.

The theatre first decided to branch out onto the international stage scene when it paired up with Fermo in Italy.

‘Three years ago we twinned with Teatro dell’ Aquila which is in a small town of 30,000 people but it has a beautiful 1,000-seat theatre and a gorgeous Roman amphitheatre, said the Kings theatre chief executive David Cooper.

‘To promote Portsmouth culture further we are thinking about sending our youth theatre to do a mini tour – we have been speaking to the regional arts body there about co-ordinating with youth theatres in Fermo.’

The theatre is twinned with Italian theatres in Fermo, Verona and Naples and Caen in France.