Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Canterbury Young Shakespeare Company at the Repertory Theatre, 17 to 25 May.
Love, death, marriage and sex jokes.
Romeo and Juliet, directed by Rozena Hallum and Lin Clark, is proof that stories really haven't changed much over time.
Set in Verona, the play tells how Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet overcome the hatred of their feuding families, fall in love and then struggle in vain to stay together. Despite that Romeo and Juliet has been done to death, this interpretation was definitely worth going to.
Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are from two families who have been fighting each other for generations. The young people fall in love and get married, and then they must find a way to stay together despite the hatred their families share. Unfortunately, a plan to bring the two together by tricking everyone into believing Juliet is dead results in tragedy (because Romeo also believes she is dead) and both kill themselves after discovering their loved one dead (Romeo mistakenly). Their families are so shocked and horrified that their behaviour had brought about the deaths that they vow to not fight again.
In my opinion, Romeo and Juliet (the script) is not a great play. What makes this version great is that throughout the whole thing I get the idea that the cast are not trying to be what they're not. For me, the acting was not wholly convincing of a realistic story.
I did not feel that I was getting to glimpse into a segment of real life, but rather that the cast were acting, both for the audience's amusement and for their own. Rather than viewing this as a negative, I found that I was enjoying the play and the acting, because the cast were not attempting to inject more into their roles than was necessary.
The enthusiasm and flair that the cast had when acting in this play was both amusing and effective, because it's much easier to sit through 2 hours of an overdone plot when you're laughing at Juliet's nanny as she bustles and complains or Mercutio's jokes (about sex - showing boys don't change) and enthusiastic speeches.
The overdone acting for most of the play also emphasised very strongly the times when the actions and dialogue were simple and understated, and added the extra meaning that was needed to make them really moving. Lance McBride, who played Mercutio, was a prime example of excessive acting - particularly during his death scene.
He frightened me quite a few times by screaming "A pox on both your houses!" when I thought he was finished staggering around and breathing heavily. In contrast, Ballantyne Haines's portrayal of Juliet's death was simple, quiet and because of the contrast to the others' deaths, very moving.
The set for Romeo and Juliet was simple and innovative, with the entire set consisting of about four large 'rock-faces' and various props. The changes in scene were, for the most part, unobtrusive and easy to ignore. Setting up for Capulet's party, for instance, involved hanging a sign reading 'Capulet' and a white curtain over the main archway and putting a seat on each side of the set.
I thought it made for a perfect set, because it was obvious where they were but the set did not intrude on what was happening. I appreciated the simplicity of the set throughout the film, actually, as the plot and language are very complicated and require a lot of attention. Keeping the set simple allowed us to realise where they were and then concentrate on the good bits.
The lighting in Romeo and Juliet was fantastic and extremely effective at setting scenes. At the beginning of the play lightning was portrayed by having the lights down and then flashing them a few times like lightning does. It was very good at giving a realistic lightning effect. Lighting was also used effectively when they used yellow light for sunlight, red and orange light for very hot sunlight, a spooky blue for moonlight. A spotlight often emphasised the main character in important scenes. At the very end scene the light dims, all except one yellow spotlight that shines directly through the cross-shaped hole in the arch - creating a haunting and sorrowful effect.
Romeo and Juliet has probably been the basis for many love stories since it was first written, because the theme of 'love overcoming all' is a strong and popular one. Although I find the idea of love at first sight - and indeed, Romeo and Juliet's entire relationship - quite ridiculous, I couldn't help but cry at the end when their parents vowed to never fight again because of their children's love. Packed with a strange mixture of love and death, naughty humour and a marriage or two; it may not be original, but Romeo and Juliet is definitely a classic.