Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Romeo and Juliet, Jan 16, 2013 ***

William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Observatory Gate, Jan 16 until March 9, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 16, 2013
This review published on line and in print in Herald Sun, Mon Jan 21, 2013. KH

 Madeleine Field & Jamieson Caldwell
Glenn Elston’s playful, accessible Romeo and Juliet demands no prior knowledge of Shakespeare, so those who never see his plays inside a theatre can enjoy a night under the stars with a blanket, a chardonnay and friends.

The trees in the Botanical Gardens glow purple behind the classical façade of a palazzo in Verona where the star-crossed lovers live out their tragic, teenage romance.

Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, is about two warring families, the Capulets – Juliet’s family – and the Montagues – Romeo’s kin.
The young couple is the heart of the story and Jamieson Caldwell’s Romeo is an attractive, athletic, boyish and passionate youth, steeped in a romantic, poetic view of love and, like any lovesick adolescent, lacking confidence in seduction.

Madeleine Field as Juliet is pretty and intense, but a little too sophisticated, arch and sexually confident – like a modern schoolgirl – and her performance often looks studied, melodramatic and disconnected from Shakespeare’s text.

The first half of Elston’s production is light-hearted and littered with topical, contemporary jokes, boyish horseplay from Romeo and his pals, and good-humoured teasing and participation with the audience.

As night settles over the gardens, the second half shifts tone, becoming darker and more ominous, with perilous swordplay, tragic errors of judgement and deaths.

Scott Jackson plays Romeo’s jovial but doomed pal, Mercutio, with an edge of mischievous taunting and physicality and an unusual hint of campery, while Chris Asimos is an ardent and dangerous Tybalt.

Brendan O’Connor is a credible patriarch as Juliet’s father, Capulet, cleverly balancing good-humoured drunkenness with unbridled rage.

Anthony Rive is a suitably affable fool as Peter, the illiterate servant, but Natalia Novikova does not always hit the broad, bawdy, comic note needed for Juliet’ s foolish, old Nurse.

Seeing Romeo and Juliet in the intense pressure cooker of a theatre can be overwhelming so, in this garden setting and with some playful additions to the text, the pressure is off the audience who can lie back, sip a wine, and enjoy.

By Kate Herbert

Jamieson Caldwell Romeo
Madeleine Field Juliet
Brendan O’Connor Capulet
Claire Nicholls Lady Capulet
Natalia Novikova Nurse
Chris Asimos Tybalt
Anthony Rive Peter
Nick Backstrom Friar
Ross Williams Montague
Daniel Mottau Benvolio
Scott Jackson Mercutio
Charlie Sturgeon Prince
Hugh Sexton Paris
Female Understudy Mia Landgren
Male Understudy James Harvy

Creative Team:
Director & Script Adaptation Glenn Elston
Musical Director Paul Norton
Costume Designer Karla Erenbots
Production Manager Ashley Groenen
Stage Manager Alix Parsons
Production Co-ordinator Kaspa Elston
Scenic Artist Barry Drynan
Lighting Operator Gordon Boyd
Fight Choreographer Felicity Steel
Dance Choreographer Sue-Ellen Shook


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