‘Romeo and Juliet’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 26, 2018

‘Romeo and Juliet’ is The Limelight Theatre’s latest wonderful offering. It is a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s most loved, 424 year old classic. Amazingly, Limelight Theatre who are well respected for their adventurous approach of trying all the genres, from musicals to high drama, have never in their 45 years of existence, staged a Shakespearean production. By making the play contemporary (modern day) the highly experienced director has made it easily accessible to a new generation of youngsters, many of whom will never have experienced Shakespeare. Many teenagers will love the story, recognising themselves as being depicted in this complex love tale, along with the ‘unreasonable’ parental interference – after all, Juliet was supposed to be about 13 yrs.!

This superb interpretation, which is based on a respected UK abridged version of the play, cleverly portrays the complexities of young love, can be seen at the Limelight Theatre on Civic Drive, in Wanneroo. Incidentally, the web link that is shown on line www.limelighttheatre.com  takes the reader to New York; ‘au’ needs to be added to the address to reach their top-class site.

The curtain goes up on this two-hour play, each Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 pm until the 13th October. There will be one matinée at 2.00 pm on Sunday 7th October.

 

The scene: The present day on an industrial demolition site.

The set: Wayne Herring’s design is radicle, taking the ‘West Side Story’ interpretation of this play, just another step further. It is a wonderful set with a seven degree rake on the stage floor, this helped the audience see the performance more easily, but mainly it seemed to increase the dramatic entrances and exits, whilst enhancing the fight scenes (combat staging by Peter Clark). At first glance the set looks simple but impressive, but closer examination shows the immense amount of work by master chippy John Taylor, aided by Owen Davis and the cast. The numerous props were selected and supplied by Loretta Gibbs.

The smooth stage management was by Keely Lynch, who was mentored and trained by Joe Isaia.

Aaron Stirk’s lighting design and Daniel Toomath’s operation was clever and exciting. Aaron used well-selected colour hues and interesting lamp angles. The cross – formed by two girders – was illuminated from below during the religious scenes. The lighting design even extended into the orchestra pit, onto the stage apron and even under the floor.

As well as the projected ‘shattered heart’ visual, there was a brief video of the loving couple that would have helped take the mental strain and embarrassment from the performers’ live performances.

The wild soundscape was designed by Justin Camilleri. There were some realistic sound effects, but mainly it was the pounding rock music that helped set the ideal mood. Blended into the music were passages of the script, this unusual technique was most effective in creating tension.

The very smart programme was designed by Jen Edwards. Its unadorned black background, with simple red and white printing, looked stunning and set the sombre mood. A tricky design for Minuteman to print, but it was worth it.

 

     Romeo Montague (Callum O’Mara – excellent), his cousin Benvolio (Josh Flaherty – terrific) and best friend Mercutio (Jared Herft – very good) were out for a night on the tiles. Romeo was looking for his girlfriend Rosalind, when they were spotted by two bovver boys, Abram (Keely Lynch) and Tybalt (Ben Anderson) part of the wealthy Capulet family. A fight takes place.

      The overbearing Lady Capulet (Nikki Di Camillo) enters her 13 yrs. old daughter, Juliet’s (Lauren Thomas – sensitive and outstanding) bedroom where she is talking to her beloved Nurse (Leisha Fox – fabulous). The mother announces that it is about time Juliet was thinking about marriage. The miserable father, Lord Capulet (Mark Fitzpatrick) advises his daughter that he will choose a suitor – probably the pathetic Paris (Oliver Kaiser), a young man so bad that even his mother would have trouble loving him.

       At a public gathering, Romeo, whilst with his parents Lord Montague (David Nelson) and Lady Montague (Julie Clark), spots radiant Juliet talking to a friend (Eddie Stowers) as she mingled with the Montagues most hated enemies – the Capulets. Romeo is smitten, as is Juliet with him, then they learn that they are from opposing families.

       When Friar Lawrence (John Taylor – impressive) is called to arrange a marriage between Paris and Juliet, the Friar realises the tension and seeks the help of the Apothecary (David Seman).

 

On learning that director Peter Clark was once an actor with the UK’s prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, I recalled one of my earliest Shakespearean experiences. I was a prepubescent lad, in an all boys’ boarding school, when a branch of the RSC toured the UK’s high schools. This hard working troupe would, for example, do two performances of ‘Macbeth’ in the school hall in one day – each to an audience of 200 boys – and then ‘Romeo’ would be performed the next day. As few homes had TV, we had never experienced a real drama, nor women with low cut gowns. There were several violent fight scenes, but it was Juliet’s balcony act that was talked about for months. Many teenagers nowadays would not even understand our excitement.

Now back to the review. Being an exceptional actor in most genres, this multi-award winning director, Peter Clark has become a missionary and taken the Shakespearean message to new territory – Wanneroo.

All of The Bard’s plays are richly written, with dialogue that demands strong characterisation from the actors. There is no room for sloppy delivery, or poorly rehearsed lines. Peter has obviously hammered this into every member of the young cast, as their chemistry and interaction was magnificent. Many of the actors have only performed in school plays or minor productions, so this made this play all the more admirable.

This action is fast-paced, combined with a reasonably complex script and storyline. An intense production will only be respected and appreciated if the audience are carried along, rather than staggering over minor points. This whole cast were slick, had particularly clear diction and employed excellent gestures that explained the double-entendres and inferences.

The wardrobe lady was Nyree Clark, who created instant recognition of the personalities; from the pure white robes of Juliet to the bovver boys, Gregory and Tybalt.

The director aimed to communicate the play to all ages and literary knowledge – he succeeded magnificently. This production was worth the forty-six years of waiting.