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Bethany O’Halloran - Romeo and Juliet (New Wolsey Theatre) Interview

The New Wolsey Theatre presents a pacy and inventive 80-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet from 1-8 February 2024, with a livestream on Thursday 8 February at 1.30pm and 7pm (the latter is followed by a Q&A). Directed by the theatre’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive Douglas Rintoul, the production is specially created for students and teachers of English and Drama, and anyone new to the play. 

Following on from last year’s successful and critically acclaimed production of DNA, The New Wolsey Theatre proudly brings together the very best of East Anglia’s emerging talent to devise a contemporary and playful Romeo & Juliet for audiences of today.

Tom Casey will play Romeo and Ophelia Charlesworth will play Juliet, with Ciaran Forde, Mae Munuo, Bethany O’Halloran and Benjamin Prudence each playing a number of roles. Some of the cast will be making their professional debuts in the production, and for many it will be their first time performing Shakespeare on a mid-scale stage.

We caught up with cast member Bethany O’Halloran to discuss the production further. Bethany is a British/Irish actress and a recent graduate of The Oxford School of Drama. In 2022, she was awarded as finalist in the BBC Carlton Hobbs Award and in 2023, performed at the Cambridge Junction Theatre and Mercury Theatre in a production affiliated with the Royal Shakespeare Company called, North Star.

What can you tell me about your role/s within the production?
I am playing the roles of Nurse and Tybalt. Nurse is Juliet’s nurse, more like a mother figure to her. She nursed her when she was a baby and has been there every single day of Juliet’s life, so she’s crucial to her upbringing and central to the Capulet household dynamic.
Tybalt is also a member of the Capulet household (Juliet’s family). In the play, Tybalt is a ‘he’, but in our adaptation a ‘she’. She is deemed the villain of the story, kills Mercutio which consequently causes Romeo in rage to kill Tybalt, escalating the rest of the events which happen in the play. It’s the turning point in the play.

How have and the company have gone about approaching condensing the text for this version?
When we were given the script before rehearsals, it was already a cut version - they’d gone through and taken out lines which weren’t necessarily core to the story, so we had the main points of the story still within the script we were given. It was cut down to roughly 80 minutes, and then once we started rehearsals we worked out quickly which lines weren’t needed or were repetitions not key to the characters or the audience - that’s how we went about condensing the text. It’s hard with Shakespeare; you have to be careful with what you do cut, because it’s a precious text and you don’t want to cut out something that could be important, so it was approached very tentatively and carefully.

What do you think Romeo and Juliet says to a modern day audience?
I think it says a lot to a modern day audience - that’s the beauty of Shakespeare’s work; it withstands the test of time. Any generation that’s performed Romeo and Juliet, it is always relevant. As for what the play says to our modern day audience, when you look at what’s going on in the world currently with young people’s lives being unnecessarily taken from them due to opposing conflicts, it really hits home that things haven’t changed. It’s important to remind audiences of that, and hold up a mirror to society - this story was written hundreds of years ago but is still relevant to what is happening in our world right now and how we can try to acknowledge and understand that - the consequences of our actions and conflict.

How wonderful has it been working alongside a company of local artists on this production?
It has been a joy. I was part of the young company years ago, and several members of the cast were too, so to come back into this space with them is very nostalgic and humbling. It has just been a joy to meet other actors and creatives from the region and share this work with them, and to work with Doug and the New Wolsey Theatre again has been a wonderful experience. I owe a lot to the New Wolsey Theatre - they gave me access and the understanding of acting as a profession, and how to go about it. They gave me the opportunity to perform really stretching plays when I was younger, so this job means a lot.

The production will also be live streamed on Thursday 8 February (matinee and evening performances). Do you think it’s important that theatres like The New Wolsey continue to offer this?
Yes, it allows access for people that may not be able to get to the New Wolsey Theatre because of financial reasons, distance or accessibility, so I think it’s very, very important that live streaming is offered. It can give a wider audience the opportunity to see the show, including schools.

If you could ask William Shakespeare one question what would it be?
My question would be about what his relationship was like with his daughter. I would love to just see a day in the life of him and his daughter together. We hear a lot about the tragedy with his son, Hamnet, but I think his daughter probably had a lot of influence on his stories, and I would love to know what sort of relationship they had.

Can you describe the production in 3 words?
The three words I would use to describe our production would be intense, life-affirming and intimate.

Romeo and Juliet runs at The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich from 1-8 February 2024, with a livestream on Thursday 8 February at 1.30pm and 7pm (the latter is followed by a Q&A). Tickets are available from

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