The screechy and chaotic stage of Bitter Sweet easily replicates a bustling, exotic marketplace which occasionally breaks the fourth wall and assaults the senses from all angles.
Even up in the rafters behind the audience cast members chant, chatter and yell to one another in a bid to create real-life surround sound stereophonics. Romeo and Juliet parallels are hard to ignore as the two charismatic leads from opposite sides of the fence fall hopelessly in love while their respectively families, the house of Aquila and house of Volpetta (subbing in for Montague and Capulet), continually war with one another.
The tried and tested central conflict is given fresh vigour by the largely foreign and diverse cast who are just as happy speaking licks in their native tongue as they are English. The Rafiki like character with his Gandalf pole serves as an awesome narrator who freeze frames the stage to spout prophetic utterances with a beaming grin and ever so infectious laughter.
The two leads should be congratulated on their humorous, yet naturalistic portrayals of two lovers, while a young fellow in a sombrero effortlessly drew attention to his corner whenever he appeared within a scene. The background music, while unnoticeable at first, was timed perfectly with the archs and troughs of the romantic centrifuge and culminated into one of the more memorable scenes involving a DJ party and a well-choreographed dance off.
Pulled together out of thin air over just ten days, the vibrant cast of Bitter Sweet propel a well worn story into unmarked territory and prove that hard work does pay off.
Bitter Sweet is on at TAPAC this weekend
Words by Nicholas Brookland