Arguably the most famous female role in the whole of the Shakespeare canon is that of doomed star crossed lover Juliet.
This summer, in the eagerly awaited Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre production in Chester of Romeo and Juliet, that iconic role will be played by actress Jess Clark.
Jess is no stranger to Chester audiences having performed in last year’s season as three impressively diverse characters.
Jess said that she has been performing in front an audience since she was very little: “I’d put on shows in my living room – puppet shows, magic shows - anything really.”
Her first part was Nancy in Oliver Twist, though she admits she was disappointed as she had her eye on another role: the despicable Fagin.
“An 11-year-old playing an abused prostitute who has to sing a song about standing by her man. It wasn’t the part I originally pined for - but it was a brilliant part to have given me!” said Jess.
Her parents are actress and photographer Lynne and Nobby Clark and theatre has been part of her world since she was born.
“I was always lucky enough to be taken to the theatre from a very young age, with regular outings to the Polka and the National. I remember seeing Ian Holm play Lear at the National in 1998 and being mesmerised.
“My mum always tells the story about us arriving at the Cottesloe and audience members looking worried that this small child would only be a disturbance, but I think I was more silent than anyone.”
On her actor role models Jess lists several including Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Olivia Coleman, Mark Rylance, Jack Lemmon, Julie Walters, Robin Williams and the actors in Steppenwolf company for their skill and watchability.
She struggles to name her most coveted role as there are ‘too many out there’ but insists she is thrilled to be given the chance to play Juliet. However, she won’t reveal how she intends to play the part.
“So much will be discovered in rehearsal with the help of Alex Clifton, who will be such an integral and supportive part of the whole piece and so much of it depends on the other company members, their ideas and feelings, so I have just been reading the play as much as possible.”
Alex Clifton, artistic director of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and director of Romeo and Juliet, said: “Jess is a ferocious, delightful, brave actor. She throws herself heart and soul into her work.
“I am so excited that we get to see her Juliet, who will be an unpredictable, heartfelt, passionate and vulnerable soul in Jess’ hands. She’s an actor who dares to bring herself to the role, and share everything with her audience.”
Jess is looking forward to returning to Chester’s open air theatre which she describes as particularly unique: “Working both in the round and at the mercy of the elements always has its challenges - using your voice properly so that everyone can hear you, trying not to get ill and always thinking about the whole audience.
“But it’s also such a joy - I remember last summer, we were almost at the end of Comedy of Errors and the heavens opened - but the show must go on! A kind audience member shared their umbrella with old Pinch and there was a real sense of camaraderie between audience and actor - I love how much the audience is part of the whole experience.”
Jess also paid tribute to Chester audiences: “They are so full of life, so supportive and are really with you every step of the way. I can’t wait to share with them again this summer.”
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre returns to Chester for its sixth year between July 3–August 23. Productions of The Wind in the Willows, Merry Wives of Windsor and Romeo and Juliet will be performed in the new in-the-round al fresco theatre.
Tickets are on sale now. Visit www.grosvenorparkopenairtheatre.co.uk or call 0845 241 7868 for details.