Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life; whose misadventure piteous overthrows. Do with their death bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their death-marked love, And the continuance of their parents’ rage, Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove, Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
Sound familiar? Well if not; do you live under a rock? Romeo and Juliet! Yes people, this is a review of Queensland Theatre Companies Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is a play that has transcended history and still rivets audiences of today. But here’s a piece of trivia for you, did you know that the original story of Romeo and Juliet was not written by William Shakespeare! Shock Horror Gasp, I know! But the plot of this tragic love tale is actually based on an Italian tale which was written in 1562, by Arthur Brooke and can be roughly translated into a verse called “The Tragic History of Romeus and Juliet”.
Then in 1582 this story of star crossed lovers was redone into prose called “Palace of Pleasure” by William, not Shakespeare, Painter. Now I’m not destroying hundreds of years of literary history by saying that Shakespeare was a fraud, he did indeed write the play Romeo and Juliet, but Shakespeare’s version did borrow heavily from both Brooke and Painter. The director of Queensland Theatre Companies Romeo and Juliet Jennifer flowers is the next person to take on the classic play. Now; let’s critique, staging and symbolism here we come!
First of all she made good use of stage and lighting, a good choice was that of the sun/moon in the background, with star cut outs that looked like they could have been cut out by Juliet herself in craft corner. They were kind of adorable, and the change from morning to night was elegant and gave of a sense of calmness. Then there is the pool of water, kicking off the show with a something dropping from the ceiling and creating a splash that caught everyone’s attention, it was a majestic blue and at times was hard to keep your eyes off. But this pool of blue water had a more sinister representation; anyone to touch it, was to die.
We saw Mecrutio, Paris, Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet all fall to their demise after they touched the seemingly harmless pool of water. The set was a playground type jungle gym the actors could climb up jumper over and run down. It made me want one in my house! It gave a tomb like feel and for and for being the only piece of staging used throughout the whole 2 hour production, Jennifer Flowers; job well done. The use of lighting to create different settings like Friar Lawrence’s greenhouse, Capulet’s mansion, Benvolio, Romeo’s and Mecrutio’s hangout and the final resting place of Romeo, Juliet and the Prince.
Throughout the play you feel as though you have been to several different locations. One thing you expect in a dramatic theatre performance is tension, even though there were moments of it, it felt a lot like they would build it up then there would be no tension in the moments that needed them most. Like the part where Juliet’s father is yelling at her because she won’t marry the man of his choosing; he has her by the hair and is pulling her around in circles, this could have been a high tension scene, apart from the fact the father was smiling and practically talking to the audience as if he was giving a lecture.
One thing Jennifer did outstanding in was the character portrayal of Mecrutio and Benvolio. Shakespeare also developed characters Mecrutio and Benvolio, and one major change that occurred in the performance was that Mecrutio was a girl! WHAT!? Yes, Mecrutio was a girl. Could someone actually change that character and pull it off? Jennifer Flowers decision to do this hits the high mark.
A colourful character not afraid to express her, um let’s say, desires; she brings a fun energetic feel to the performance capturing the true character of Mecrutio. Benvolio is sensible and always trying to go the right way about things staying away from trouble. He often ends up in the middle of one of Mecrutio’s outrageous rants and he is always on the lookout for Romeo, and I feel as though Jennifer has done an excellent job in the portrayal of both Mecrutio and Benvolio bringing to light the true essence of William Shakespeare’s characters.
Overall I think QTC’s performance of Romeo and Juliet, with a cast consisting of Thomas Larnkin, Melanie Zanetti, Ross Ballbusiente, Simon Burvill-Holmes, Tim Dashwood, Norman Doyle, Steven Grives, Caroling Kennison, Andrew More, Veronica Neave, Nick Skubji and Steven Tandy was a performance that one would recommend for the older audiences or those who have an interest in Shakespearian theatre for those it would be a great show; If they had thrown in a 10 minute intermission it might have made just that bit more enjoyable.
In all it captures William Shakespeare’s characters, makes good use of staging and lighting and uses effective symbolism. My favourite part being the blue water; Jennifer Flowers should be applauded for her use of lighting to make a set that doesn’t change become many different places and make the audience feel as though they are in fact, in a different room, in a different place. Jennifer Flowers casting, lighting and stage choices all come together to give a good entertaining performance that does justice to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.