It just wouldn’t be summer without an alfresco Shakespearean performance. Settling down for a picnic, a tipple and the words of the Bard has become a staple of the theatrical calendar, and there are many companies up and down the country treating audiences old and new to this special experience. Shooting Stars Theatre Company and director Helen Crosse have won awards for their previous efforts, and their current production of Romeo and Juliet shows themselves as masters of accessible, intelligent and family-friendly Shakespeare.

In this modernised production, the show is filled with fun, relaxed energy and clarity. At the same time it feels no obligation to dumb itself down for a young or new audience – ultimately the focus is on the text and the way it is delivered to tell the classic story in an exciting and accessible manner, while retaining the emotional pull of the play. There is excellent attention to detail and always something to keep the youngest audience members thoroughly engaged; as they giggle at the antics, jokes and mishaps of Peter, Benvolio and Mercutio, there’s also plenty of humour on a different plane that keeps the adults entertained.

Every Romeo and Juliet needs a first-rate Mercutio – let’s face it, in Act I he’s our favourite while Romeo is wallowing and deciding who he’s actually in love with – and this production has it in the form of Graham Dron. He is hilarious, sharp in every movement around the space and brilliant in his audience interaction. Yet when it comes to the Queen Mab speech, he also demonstrates an ability to mix light and shade with nuance and subtle power. His final parting bitterness to Romeo is a potent strike that signals the play’s descent into tragedy.

As our star-crossed lovers, Joe Sargent and Emily Loomes are vivacious and convincing. Their youthful recklessness is highlighted but not condemned, and there is lovely chemistry throughout. The rest of the cast make up a strong ensemble, with particular mention for accomplished comedic turns from the hapless Peter (Rory Fairburn) and swaggering Paris (Maxwell Tyler).

The light-hearted first half holds its audience of mixed ages rapt, and it was wonderful to see youngsters gripped by the action before their eyes. While I couldn’t hold back an affectionate smile as the oh-so-familiar dialogue reached my ears, many of those watching may be hearing the lines for the first time, even if they’re familiar with the ubiquitous story. The production therefore has a tough job in keeping this engagement going as the play takes a darker turn, but Crosse and her cast negotiate the shift in atmosphere neatly; the pace is kept up well, the continuation of the contemporary soundtrack ensures the modern feel is retained throughout, and the strong sense of character is preserved in each cast member after the more in-your-face comedic elements are ended. The atmospheric second half, with a simple lighting design that works perfectly with the evening light, kept the audience holding its breath until the very end.

This is a production that maintains an admirable balance between comedy and tragedy, novelty and familiarity, and clarity and subtlety. The performance style and thoughtful staging makes for an excellent introduction to Shakespeare, as well as a way to return to a well-loved text and still pack a punch.

Romeo and Juliet is playing at Lauderdale House until 8 August. For more information and tickets, see the Lauderdale House website.