Abbeyfest launches with a bang on Monday as the 57-day long festivities get under way with a classic tale given a very modern twist.

Action to the Word Theatre Company's Romeo and Juliet takes William Shakespeare's masterpiece and drags it into the 21st century in a promenade performance that will see the audience moving with the cast throughout Merton Abbey Mills.

"It's iPod Shakespeare," explains the company's director Alexandra Spencer-Jones.

"It's bigger than promenade, it's site specific and we have recreated Verona to be Merton Abbey Mills and will be moving all around the space, it's very much become about that area.

"What is different about us to other people putting on Shakespeare is we are actually using the original space to create these really varied productions.

"All the rehearsals have been held on set and it's very different from the school environment where you are being taught from the front of the classroom. "Shakepeare's shows are supposed to be electric, if he was alive today he would be writing something like 24."

Unlike some adaptions of the tragic love story, Action to the Word have resisted the temptation to change Shakespeare's text, though some things are very different indeed.

"We've got two children in the company and there is one scene where they are playing on their Nintendo DS and Juliet comes in listening to her iPod," says Alexandra.

"It's Shakespeare's text though as once you take that language into a modern setting it's very easy to understand.

"It's just that my approach as a director is very modern and it's more to do with sets so that what we get is very understandable conversation and excellent banter.

"It's about taking Shakespeare from the page to the stage, we want to get kids out of the classroom and into the theatres."

Romeo and Juliet, Merton Abbey Mills, July 6 to 19 (not 10 and 17), 7.30pm, £9. Call 020 8544 1222 or visit

  • What else can you see at Abbeyfest this week?


As seen on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Argumental, Andrew Maxwell brings his unique comedy to Slaughterville @ the Watermill - the Friday night comedy night that takes place every week during the festival. The Dublin-born comic is renowned for this sharp, fast-paced streams of consciousness and well-observed retorts. Also on the same night will be Jason John Whitehead, whose intricately woven anecdotes and sharply crafted gags have won him many an award and three solo runs in four years at Edinburgh Festival. Colour House Theatre, July 10, 10pm, £8. Call 020 8542 5511 or visit


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