“I think what a lot of adaptations miss is the essence and energy of youth. We are taking a play about sex, love, violence and death and letting it be sexy, violent, deadly and as obsessed with love as only the young can be” Kat O’Sullivan, Producer, ><R&J.
There couldn’t have been a better display of the invisible crisis of being young than the opening scene of the Breadbeard Collective’s exploration of Romeo and Juliet, the final La Boite Indie of the 2013 season; ><R&J (Greater than, less than Romeo ampersand Juliet) – sit-up and take note Baz!
After a quick, quirky introduction the raw, violent, passion of youth is unleashed with an all in brawl of fighting and violent, lusty kissing that pays homage to the Montague’s and Capulet’s, to West-Side Story and to the wild, untameable emotions of youth. It’s boy-on-girl, girl-on-girl and boy-on-boy and it’s loud, it’s obnoxious, it’s messy and it’s glorious!
La Boite’s Roundhouse, come theatre playroom, was strangely not-round, but perhaps this was part of Director Lucas Stibbard’s surprise attack on Shakespeare as the Bard’s great tragedy was dusted off for yet another joust. The Breadbeard are not interested in the same old star-crusted story; they are intent on pulling the stuffing out and experimenting with what is in and around the ‘greatest love story ever written’. They openly wonder if they can do anything to save that lusty duo or is that death scene as inevitable as growing old.
Producer, Kat O’Sullivan, “…the fight against Shakespeare, to end the tragedy as a romance, can the performers uncross the star-crossed lovers? We just performed experiment #345 and we failed, we’ve always failed. But maybe when you come and witness the next experiment, we could alter the course of Juliet and her Romeo…..”
Somewhere along the way we study modernism, poke at the edges of Shakespeare’s complex language and are surprised by his turn of phrase, all the while dipping in and out of 15th century Verona. The ensemble – Cameron Clark, Luke Constable, Julia Forsberg, Essie O’Shaughnessy, Steph Stainlay, David Stewart, Steph Tandy, Brett Walsh, Reuben Witsenhuysen, Bianca Zouppas – seem to be luring us to our possible deaths (or at least to Romeo and Juliet’s). They thrash us with a brilliant soundtrack, cross-gender role-play and mess about with the storyline and before you know it, we’ve settled right into Shakespeare; we are hit with the gut-wrenching death, raw and unadulterated. We were expecting it weren’t we? So why was it such a surprise?
Breadbeard remind us that youth hasn’t change since the dawn of (Shakespearean) time,with pop culture references that span generations and allow us to recognise ourselves in all these playful incarnations of the famous lovers. They also remind us that once, this was our story as well. This group of 20-somethings have provided an unexpectedly generous fountain of youth in a theatre space that, to me, always feels a little youth-exclusive.
A quick mention of Bianca Zouppas, David Stewart and Cameron Clark for their great ability when delivering Shakespearean dialogue. ><R&J is playing at La Boite until November 30.
“….perhaps the inevitably of Shakespeare can be undone. Or maybe not. They say Shakespeare always wins.” Kat O’Sullivan