August 15, 2010

Romeo & Juliet

August 10, 2010


Romeo & Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Nikki Bloom and Geordie Brookman

State Theatre Company of South Australia
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
August 10. Tickets  $ 29 – 59. Bookings : BASS 131 246
Until August 29.

In their sharply imagined and theatrically absorbing re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, writer Nikki Bloom and director Geordie Brookman,  remind us that the play itself opens with declarations of its lamentable ending. There is no suspense about the story, we always know it will end in tears.

Building on this premise – and (perhaps, thanks to Baz Luhrmann) the almost universal familiarity with the play that audiences are likely to have – the State Theatre Company’s production begins and ends with a funeral scene. The caskets are laid side by side , the feuding families in their Sunday best and withdrawn behind the obligatory RayBans, and commemorative tokens are placed in full view – a beanie and rough leather jacket for Romeo, a long cornflower blue scarf for Juliet.

These  motifs provide the links for the narrative that follows, as the excellent cast of six players move from their primary roles as father, mother, friar and friend and, in imaginative turns, take on the scarf and jacket and inhabit the  impulsive delights, fears, youthful exhilarations, and tragic recognitions of the absent Romeo and Juliet. It is a bold strategy and might simply have proved a tiresome gimmick. Instead it underlines how each of the characters must inhabit a perspective diametrically opposed to their own. It is a kind of therapeutic role-play – and in its accumulating complexity, releases meanings and emotions both subtle and powerfully satisfying.

Designer Pip Runciman’s scaffolding set, covered with brownish scrim, rises to cathedral proportions, with a mezzanine on one side and, at the back,  a cross-shaped entrance, strikingly lit by Geoff Cobham, for the chapel scenes. Terence Crawford and Michaela Cantwell play the feuding parents with authority and the young lovers with touching simplicity, Thomas Conroy is without affectation in his memorable turn as Juliet and outstanding as Mercutio – his death, like others in the play, by a sudden smear of blood,  a startling device. Roman Vaculik is a steadfast Benvolio, Mark Saturno is impressive as the Friar and Josephine Were, youthfully fresh as each of the lovers and suitably jaded as the unhappy Lady Capulet.

Geordie Brookman has paced, what the text calls “ the two hour’s traffic of our stage” (in fact, it is two hours twenty minutes without interval) with cinematic fluency. The production has zest and measured wit – the inclusion of Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug” is an early thematic highpoint. Throughout, the scarf and jacket move like changing batons as the splendidly composed, often reflective, ensemble elicits from the text – and from the audience – responses deeper than sentimentality and shrewder than the usual telling of this star-crossed tale.

Murray Bramwell

1 Comment »

  1. […] actors. I had read very bad reviews, and my couple of friends who had seen it weren’t fans, but Murray Bramwell of The Australian, along with a couple others, liked it. As an Ambassador I’ve been wearing my badges and putting […]

    Pingback by Almost a review: romeo&juliet « No Plain Jane — August 23, 2010 @ 11:15 am

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