Talking Theatre: Connor Allen Discusses Romeo and Juliet

Combining an aerial circus with iambic pentameter is only one magical combination that is currently enthralling audiences of Omidaze Theatre Company’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, which runs at Wales Millennium Centre until May 14, 2017.

Andy Howells recently caught up with Connor Allen, who plays Romeo, to find out about the production.

How did you get into acting?

Around the age of 15 or 16, I chose drama for one of my GCSE options. I instantly found a passion for acting as it allowed me to create, and escape to new worlds with new characters. As a teenager, it gave me a way to channel all my frustrations and anger into something creative. I then chose Drama at A-Level and studied it at university… and the rest, as they say, is history!

What’s your role in the new production of Romeo and Juliet and is this a role you’ve always longed to play?

I play Romeo. In all honesty, it’s not a role I have longed to play as I used to have a real fear of Shakespeare. I always thought it was for well-spoken middle class people, and that I wouldn’t fit into a Shakespeare play. The funny thing though, is that my first acting credit after graduating from university was a Shakespeare role.

What’s different about this production than any others people will have seen?

This production incorporates circus and aerial skills into the performance. I don’t want to give too much away but there are characters throughout the piece that use aerial equipment, and that combination of Shakespeare and circus skills is something different that many people will have never seen before.

The production also features a mixed gender blind and colour-blind cast how interesting has that been to have in the process?

I haven’t given it much thought to be honest. It’s refreshing that a production has gone for a mixed gender-blind and colour-blind cast, but I feel it’s 2017 and it shouldn’t matter about anyone’s colour, gender etc. If you are right for the part and do a good job then why shouldn’t you be cast?

Connor Allen and Aamira Challenger in Omidaze Productions Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Kirsten McTernanConnor Allen and Aamira Challenger in Omidaze Productions Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Kirsten McTernan

Connor Allen and Aamira Challenger in Omidaze Productions Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Kirsten McTernan

Do you think Shakespeare’s words still have relevance and prominence in today’s society?

100%! Shakespeare wrote stories with universal themes such as friendship, love, betrayal, conflict, death, family, and these themes as still so hugely relevant in today’s society. That says something about the wordsmith that Shakespeare was, even 400 years later his plays are still being performed and still have an impact. The human condition hasn’t really changed that much over 400 years. We still grieve like Hamlet and still long for love like Romeo.

The rehearsal process has already been shared with school students across Wales – how well has it been received so far?

It has been really well received. Children love it. They love being a part of the rehearsal process as we treat them like assistant directors so they get to contribute to the scenes and play around with us. It breaks down barriers and allows them a clear path to the creative arts because we come to them. It also opens up the world of Shakespeare so the children can understand it more and won’t be afraid, like I was, thinking it’s only for the literate and middle class. For many of the children we rehearsed with, it was their first time experiencing Shakespeare and that could be daunting, but every child understood the language and the context of the scenes. It also helped having facilitators run workshops with the children before we arrived, so they were already ready for us.

Would this presentation be a good introduction to the work of Shakespeare?

Definitely! It opens the door to Shakespeare for children. It gives them a clear understanding and that hugely helps when watching and experiencing Shakespeare. As the show is targeted at children as young as seven, our clarity and direction as actors and story tellers has to be on point. For many children and adults, this may be their first experience of a Shakespeare production so the last thing we want to do is put them off.

Finally what role would you like to play in the future and why?

On stage, I would love to play Darryl in Duncan Macmillan’s ‘Monster’ because he is so broken and flawed. He is seen as a problem but all he needs is support and hope, like many teenagers today.  Also to be cast in a Gary Owen play would be a privilege, as his voice echoes the struggle of the Welsh working class.

On TV, my dream role would be the Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ as I’m a huge fan of the show and the role is never ending. You can explore new worlds and different eras in time, take on new enemies and old ones too. You get to travel the universe and escape to anywhere. Time and space is literally your oyster.