I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Verona at Victoria
A visit to the swimming baths is set to take on a different significance in a new production of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy.
HOME, the organisation formed by the merger of Manchester's Library Theatre and Cornerhouse, is staging Romeo & Juliet in the city's historic Victoria Baths. The bath's three pools will be filled with 86,000 gallons of water. The atmospheric location will compliment a version of the play set in an Eastern European criminal underworld, with a score specifically written for HOME by Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia.
Juliet will be played by Sara Vickers, who appeared both in ITV's Inspector Morse spin-off Endeavour and at Manchester's Royal Exchange in The Lady from the Sea. Alex Felton, who has just played Lysander in the Barbican's world tour of A Midsummer Night's Dream, is the production's Romeo.
Drama undergraduates from Manchester Metropolitan University will form the Chorus Ensemble. As part of HOME's commitment to local communities, professional actors will run workshops in Wythenshawe. Audience members will get the chance to see the resulting exhibition before they see the play itself.
Victoria Baths won the BBC Restoration programme in 2003. It had been the focus of a campaign since Manchester City Council decided it had to close in 1993 because of the expense of keeping it open. The building is now partially restored. The Victoria Baths Trust continues to work towards full restoration.
Many TV dramas have used Victoria Baths for filming, including Cracker and Prime Suspect in the 1990's. More recent programmes have included Life on Mars, the Antiques Road Show, Bedlam, Eric and Ernie amongst others.
The many film adaptations of Romeo & Juliet include Baz Luhrmann's 1996 version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The play inspired the musical West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim.
Shakespeare is widely believed to have based his classic play on Arthur Brooke's poem The Tragical History of Romeo and Juliet, published in 1562 and William Painter's prose version, The Palace of Pleasure.
Romeo & Juliet is the second in a series of site-specific productions by HOME in the lead-up to the opening of its £25m centre for theatre, film and art in spring 2015. The new centre will include a 500-seat theatre, as well as a studio space, cinema screens, digital productions and broadcast facilities, a café bar and restaurants.