01
May
12

QTC’s Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

26th April – 13th May

 

I wonder… Does a favourable review earn the best seats in the house, commonly known as The Stalls? I only wonder because I fear the next seats allocated to me by QTC may be in what is commonly known as The Foyer.

Romeo and Juliet is probably one of the few shows staged in the Playhouse that I can honestly say looks just fine from the balcony. I can say that because that’s where I was sitting on opening night. The guy next to me enjoyed the show, and adored my fragrance. It was Lancome’s Poeme. Before the show started and as we were leaving, he told me how divine it was. I told him that divine is better than offensive and that sometimes it brings on a migraine, though certainly not consistently enough to have to get rid of the stuff. I used to wear vanilla oil to the theatre but that only made people hungry! (Try it! It smells delicious!).

The distinct advantage of the balcony seats has to be the frequent glimpses of interesting reflections on the surface of a pool of shallow water, reflections that may be missed by those sitting in the stalls. Under utilised, this body of water is perhaps intended to be more symbolic than practical. The first impression it makes upon us is a powerful one. A single drip drops into the pool, breaking its surface and sending out ripples, which continue across the surface of the stage, reminding us that every little cause has its multiple effects.

I was waiting for somebody to fall dramatically into the water and die with a splash but of course neither Tybalt (Ross Balbuziente) nor Paris (Tim Dashwood) do… this sacred space is reserved for the very attractive corpses of our young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, played by Thomas Larkin and Melanie Zanetti, who, for the record, are aged 25 and 27 respectively.

You might have noticed some excitement about the marketing surrounding this production? Some controversy? Yes. It was about the same level of controversy that surrounded the release of an image of Paul Bishop and Veronica Neave in 1996. For the full story this time around – and for his always-excellent notes – read Baz McAlister’s piece in the program. This time, we see Neave as Mercutio and she is a delight to watch– elfin and acutely aware of herself in the space, as one would expect from a seasoned professional. Her movement is at once both agile and fluid. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Neave’s performance, I can’t help feeling she was not the Mercutio needed in this production; I’d like to have seen another dazzling, dynamite male actor complete the Montague gang! Many of his quips and those directed towards him would make more sense. I’ve seen this level of gender-blind casting done before and it wasn’t entirely successful then either. Enough of the PC casting, okay? It’s not surprising anymore and it’s not offending any of us to put a man in a male role! I know! Full circle! Woah!

I had to laugh when a friend revealed that he had told QTC’s Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, that this show should be called Romeo ABS Juliet. I came away with exactly the same impression. You see the young men in this production are extraordinarily… ripped. Let me say that again so that it’s clear to those who, like me, come away disappointed by the lack of nudity elsewhere in the production (false advertising?).

The young men in this production are extraordinarily RIPPED.

Have they spent more time working out than rehearsing?! I remember the boys in high school, for a Rock Eisteddfod (as it was then known), in which they were (shirtless) cowboys, having to paint on abs like these guys have! The physiques are to be admired and with shirts unbuttoned and left wide open they are certainly supposed to be on display. If it were not so bloody impressive, it would be comical, like scenes from Baywatch.

n.b. a scene not unlike the one captured by Rob Maccoll in the image below was actually seen in an episode (during Season 9) of Baywatch.

Nikki J-Price and Lisa Wilson have choreographed fight sequences that are more balletic than athletic, which are perfectly underscored and pretty but at times lacking in the authentic passion and aggression demanded by a plot that is driven as much by long-held hatred as it is driven by love. The shrill vocals that open and close the show resonate briefly with me, with such a jarring, scarring quality that they remind me of the crucifixion in Jesus Christ Superstar or those terrifying moments in the Stampede in The Lion King (Composition and Sound Design by Phil Slade).

So. Okay. We know the story. SPOILER ALERT! We know it’s not a happy ending. It’s like watching Titanic, isn’t it? Big ship hits bigger iceberg and sinks, right? Romeo and Juliet is about a couple of kids from opposite ends of town who fall in love and through a terrible misunderstanding, somebody else’s mistake; die.

Larkin and Zanetti make a gorgeous couple but Larkin need not stoop! Stand up straight, sir! Zanetti is, after all, accustomed to being the height she is and feels fine, I suspect, having to look up at you! The awkward posturing continues away from Zanetti and we get used to it, along with a few other odd staging decisions. That aside, these two are pretty perfectly matched and mirror each other’s innocent joy and some sense of deep passion, however; this is no Spring Awakening! Perhaps, given more time, we would have seen – and felt – more of the highly anticipated “sizzle” between these two. Zanetti has achieved admirably, the whirly, heady (and headstrong), heedless, impressionable, delightful state of a fourteen year old and the production benefits enormously from her energy.

It feels like the action could be happening anywhere because the set looks like nowhere on Earth. Bill Haycock’s design certainly doesn’t lend itself to old Verona but more to giant, old, rancid cheese blocks (and I’m aware that some people like their cheese like this), which are supposed to inspire visions or vague memories, for those who know it, of The Globe, where Shakespeare originally staged his works. Instead, I can’t help query sight lines and the wisdom of building baby poo coloured walls on any stage for the good of any production. The costumes (and I like the costumes, also by Bill Haycock) clash or become lost against it. Somehow the lighting  (by David Walters) doesn’t help when I expect it to. Although the gentle water effects are simply beautiful by the time we come to join Romeo and Juliet in their tomb, before then it’s like the ugly lights have come on and everybody has carried on dancing, regardless. Did no one learn anything from Summer of the Seventeenth Doll?

To state the obvious, there’s a great deal of talent in this cast and I did enjoy insightful, measured performances from Norman Doyle as Montague and Steven Tandy as Friar Lawrence. I enjoyed Andrea Moor as the-mother-that-could (but won’t) Lady Capulet and Steven Grives as Capulet, though I abhor him for his treatment of his daughter, Juliet…a sure measure of his hitting the mark! I’d like to see the younger members of this ensemble play a little more together too…clearly it’s time to get to see some shake & stir!

IMHO this Romeo and Juliet is Caroline Kennison’s show. As Nurse, Kennison reveals the true wit, pace, pathos and humour of the Bard’s words and sounds more Australian than Shakespearean but when staging a “contemporary” production, that’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it? Don’t we want Shakespeare to stay accessible and relevant? Jennifer Flowers and QTC give Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet such a sexy, contemporary, fun, fast treatment (at 2 hours without interval, it will be too fast for some, without time to stop and smell the roses. I suspect somebody remembered that we all have TV and Internet attention spans now and directed accordingly) that you will just have to see for yourself, whether or not it is to your taste, rancid cheese walls and all.


Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: