Dramatic, heartfelt and funny, Sex, Love and Youth: A Shakespearean Soiree is an easy and enjoyable introduction to the world of Shakespeare, without all the death. Well, without most of it.

Romeo and Juliet is given the most time, with the small cast telling us the story of young lovers who met, married in secret, and (as far as we see here) lived happily ever after. A brief performance from The Taming of the Shrew follows, with the final excerpt from Much Ado About Nothing.

The performance sticks mostly to Shakespeare’s original language, so those less familiar with the tales may feel lost at times. But the modern delivery helps the audience better understand the nuances of the scenes, even if you don’t always understand what the actors are saying.

Emily Sinclair is especially successful in modernising Juliet, speaking the original script as if gossiping with friends about the boy she met last night. The performance of Shakespeare’s most famous work has you rooting for these two young lovers, feeling the butterflies of their blossoming romance, even though we all know how the story really ended.

The next two excerpts are significantly shorter, so their inclusion feels a little out of place. However, they are still successful explanations of an entire play through one key scene, paired with brief descriptions of their context by producer and cast member Jonathan Mill.

The cast of five use the Ballroom at Ayers House in an effective way, and credit must be given for their professional and passionate delivery in front of what on this day was a very small audience in a very small space.

Audience interaction is not overdone, with the occasional fourth-wall break furthering engagement and adding to the performance – for example, when a scene is stopped to remind the actors they are just supposed to be performing the fun bits. At one point, we are given an explanation of how old dialect meant a scene would have sounded very different, before the scene is then repeated with said dialect.

Sex, Love and Youth: A Shakespearean Soiree is likely to be most enjoyed by fans of Shakespeare (as long as you’re open to change), although those who know the bare minimum can certainly also enjoy the show. It’s a great and easy introduction to Shakespeare – though be warned, the use of “sex” in the title is not just for show.

Sex, Love and Youth: A Shakespearean Soiree has one final performance on Tuesday, February 20. It will be performed in a different venue – Diverse-City @ West Village.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview. 

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