EODS actors get ready for Romeo and Juliet in Italian Gardens

Romeo and Juliet. Picture by Paul Spink
Romeo and Juliet. Picture by Paul Spink

Eastbourne Operatic and Dramatic Society presents Romeo and Juliet at The Italian Gardens, Holywell, from Wednesday, July 24, to Saturday, August 3.

Assembling for the camera are members of the cast of this latest production by EODS.

The happy company is formed of all ages, from all walks of life.

Bryan Ayres, the most senior member of the group first appeared for EODS in 1957. A life-long performer, even when living abroad, Bryan indulged his love of the stage. Now happily settled back in Eastbourne, he is relishing the prospect of returning to the Italian Gardens as Prince Escalus. He last appeared there in As You Like It in 2016. He quips, of his acting obsession, that he really should have grown out of it by now.

Fellow EODS stalwart is Mike Barber who has appeared for the society on more occasions than you can shake a stick at. Many will remember him as the drunken Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night in 2015. This year he takes on the more sober role of Friar Lawrence. Talented Eastbournian Jane Tingley, another Shakespeare regular and Mike’s partner in crime in Twelfth Night, the wily Maria, is delighted to have the landed the role of Nurse in this production. Paul Walker is making his debut for the thespians, but with a long line of theatrical roles behind him says that he is honoured to be part of this Eastbourne tradition.

At the younger end of the spectrum are Lester Seale and Emily Wood, who take on the roles of Romeo and Juliet respectively. Although the couple are newcomers to EODS, both have impressive backgrounds of involvement with the theatre.

In the play, in spite of a bitter feud between their families, Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love. Juliet wishes to avoid a marriage arranged by her parents, while Romeo has been banished by the Prince of Verona. A plan hatched by Friar Lawrence to solve the couple’s difficulties goes tragically wrong, when a message detailing the scheme does not reach Romeo. But as David Foster, director explains, the play is so much more than a mere teen romance. It is filled with passion, grit, violence, sadness and, indeed, humour, not to mention quite a lot of sword-fighting.

EODS have been staging Shakespeare at the Italian Gardens for nearly 20 years, continuing a tradition that has existed at the seaside location for over half a century.

This year, visitors to the Gardens will be transported to charming Verona for the evening thanks to the carefully researched, and designed, set by Andy Newell. Andy who has undertaken the construction of the EODS Shakespeare sets for the past four years, has also built sets for venues as far afield as Dubai.

Performances start at 7.30pm each night. There will be no performance on Sunday, July 28. Tickets cost £14-£19 from the Eastbourne Theatres box office. Visit www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk or call 01323 412000. Alternatively, people can purchase tickets from the Tourist Information Office in Hyde Gardens.

With sell out audiences last year, theatregoers are recommended to book early to avoid disappointment.

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