Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Romeo and Juliet, Jan 16, 2013 ***
Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Gardens, Observatory Gate, Jan 16 until March 9, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on
Jan 16, 2013 Stars:***
This review published on line and in print in Herald Sun, Mon Jan 21, 2013. KH
Madeleine Field & Jamieson Caldwell
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
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
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.