We all know the story of Juliet and her Romeo, so it’s refreshing to see the classic love story performed in a non-traditional style. However, while the acting and direction in Shakespeare’s R & J impressed, Joe Calarco’s adaptation left me unsatisfied.
Riverside Productions and Phil Bathols QUT Garden’s Theatre, Brisbane Monday, 12 July, 2010
We all know the story of Juliet and her Romeo, so it’s refreshing to see the classic love story performed in a non-traditional style. However, while the acting and direction in Shakespeare’s R & J impressed, Joe Calarco’s adaptation left me unsatisfied. Four young men repressed by their Catholic boarding school secretly play-out a banned text, Romeo and Juliet. As they work through the scenes, what begins as a light-hearted interest gradually deepens to a journey of personal discovery. From what I can gather, the boys who play Romeo and Juliet explore a genuine love interest for one another using the play as their catalyst, or perhaps are just exploring their sexuality. The four also delve into their comradeship, elements of bullying and the pressures of their surroundings – but it’s hard to know for sure if I’m on the right track. The setting leaves a lot to the imagination and after talking to audience members after the show, it was clear many took away something different, while some grasped nothing at all. At intervals initiated by a school bell, the boys would break into classroom mode and start reciting learning materials, for example, “a man’s place is to govern the world, and a woman’s is to charm and influence it”. I would have liked to have seen less of the Shakespearean text and more conversation between the boys to express their thoughts and feelings. There was a lot of physicality and while physical movement and other subtle nuances were supposed to reveal their unvoiced feelings, I was left bemused. Tom Stokes and Ben Gerrad’s intimate performances were moving, particularly in the second act when I started to see how their connection as two young men exploring their sexuality coincided with the tale of Romeo and Juliet. Gerrad’s portrayal of Juliet was easy to accept, and very convincing considering the challenges he faced in playing the part. He was very natural and only became feminine when it was critical. Stokes connected with Gerrard with ease and was a very gentle Romeo. Julian Curtis staged a brilliant interpretation of the Nurse. He injected the right amount of humour and I was convinced he had nursed Juliet from a baby; his attachment was humorous but sincere. As Tybalt he was less powerful. Garth Holcombe was versatile and transitioned from Mercutio, Lady Capulet and Friar with ease. Minimal props were used and the essential design surrounded the boys’ Catholic school costume and a red cloth that was used to represent several aspects including weapons and emotional ties. It was effective and kept the space free for the physical side of the acting. Sound design by Steve Toulmin was very emotive and the perfect backdrop for the emotions Romeo and Juliet stirred. The piece contained a lot of beauty and creative style, but there were holes that needed filling and themes that required confirmation. Bookings at www.gardenstheatre.qut.edu.au Until 17 July 2010