Posts Tagged ‘romeo and juliet


> < R&J


>< R&J

La Boite Indie & Breadbeard Collective

with the support of QPAC

The Roundhouse

13 – 30 November 2013


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


Ten people aged 18-25 gather in a room. They play, dance, fight, kiss and talk about life, love, violence, sex and death. Taking Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, they remix the work by hanging new meat on the skeleton of the story. As the tale takes hold, the party dies down and the group sees the bloody consequences of their experiments.


Helpmann Award nominee Lucas Stibbard leads a cast of Brisbane’s bravest emerging artists in this deconstruction and reconstruction of the greatest love story ever told.




>< R&J and its opening night has been awaited by many with baited breath. Even one of my own sources in the theatre community was contemplating travelling from the Gold Coast to see it. A lot of excitement was riding on this one. Would it fly or flop? Generally I avoid asking this question before going into a show. But I couldn’t help myself this time. I’ll tell you now, >< R&J soared.


This show truly needs to be seen to be believed. It gets meta, it gets comical, it gets personal, it becomes interactive, it becomes multi-media designed and explosive, it focuses on meta and the Real again. It becomes emotional and bends and turns and laughs and changes and lights up. By the end of the show you feel like you have befriended the cast. You come for the tragedy, but you stay for the interconnected stories you thought you’d never laugh or cry about.


This is what contemporary theatre should aspire to be.


When the show first opened I did have a moment of doubt. The team employs words and imagery on the screen. This is well and good and they made a solid delivery in this media form, but it is a common hallmark of a QUT production. It had me concerned this would be a rehashing of a Vena Cava production and nothing particularly unique. I also choked on the hipster vibes at first. References in the first ten minutes to High Fidelity and covering the song Love Will Us Apart by Joy Division on a ukulele is very cliché hipster chic. All they would’ve needed was The Smiths playing and a guest appearance from Michael Cera and they would have all the pieces of a hipster set.


But this retelling of Romeo and Juliet thankfully did not head in that direction. It’s a show that engages Y Generation more than anyone, but it maintains sincerity and inclusion for all the audience without getting bulked down in being too “quirky”.


The physicality of the show is superb.


The cast in their ever-changing roles was so fluid to transform. Each and everyone of the cast could change from a bum to an astronaut if they wished and I would not have noticed. But there are no astronauts in this show – only star-crossed lovers and those around them.


I lost count how many pop culture references I found. But the songs, the stunts, the lights and the burning creativity of this piece keeps you alert and hungry.


I have seen many performances of Romeo and Juliet. Some were entertaining, some were true to the text and some were absolutely horrible. I vowed never to say this about any version of a Shakespearian classic, and certainly not one as well known as Romeo and Juliet.


This is by far the most impressive performance of the text I have seen yet.


I’m looking forward to seeing what The Breadbeard Collective comes up with next.




How many La Boite Indie shows did you see in 2013?






La Boite Indie is one of Australia’s leading platforms for independent theatre.


This year you’re invited to help La Boite choose one of the six independent groups to move to QPAC in 2014.



EDC: Natalie Weir’s R&J and Carmen Sweet


Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion) and Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

Expressions Dance Company

The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

Thursday 20th June 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 



Rhiannon McLean Carmen Sweet


See Barry Alsop’s images here


From age to age, one classic story is as timeless as love itself… 

Winner of Outstanding Achievement in Choreography at the 2012 Australian Dance Awards, Natalie Weir’s R&J presents three versions of events inspired by the star-crossed lovers at the heart of Shakespeare’s greatest love story. Exclusively for the Noosa Long Weekend, EDC will revisit the explosive first act, transporting audiences to the beating heart of the modern-day club scene where passion and desire erupt in a dangerous and tragic love triangle.  



This iconic tale of Spanish heat and gypsy passion unravels when naïve soldier Don José has his heart ignited by the fiery Carmen, discarding his childhood sweetheart and deserting the army. Josè’s attempts to tame the freedom-loving beauty are futile, and when she leaves him for the famous toreador Escamillo, all three are engulfed in the flames of jealousy and revenge. Opera’s most famous femme fatale is stripped. Weir’s Carmen is a free spirit; dangerous, volatile and vulnerable, brought to vivid life by three dancers playing her different states of mind and alter egos.


The only dance event of the Festival in 2013, Expressions Dance Company (EDC as the rebranding goes), could have sold out twice over. The full house included many young dancers and their mums and dance teachers, from various Sunshine Coast schools and studios. With the Noosa area schools best represented (NPDA REPRESENT!), I couldn’t help but wonder where the rest were. Surely, a chance to se the acclaimed Queensland company on home turf is more appealing than making the trek to Brisbane on a cold, rainy night? I know, sometimes I make that trek up to four nights a week, and it’s really not as bad as many Coasties make out, but I also appreciate seeing so much top notch stuff, so much closer to home during the Festival.


Actually, it’s moving day today (can you believe we’re moving house in between rehearsals for West Side Story and The Noosa Long Weekend?), so I haven’t been tweeting much! Tonight I have the opportunity to see David Pomeranz’s Chaplin: A Life. In Concert & Meow Meow, and I’ll be letting you know how both those shows go.


EDC did not disappoint (they rarely do). This was indeed, as the Festival program promised, “a delectable double-bill of two enchanting short works.” Poppy and I were excited to see so many young friends in the audience and we enjoyed the buzz before the show began. (We also enjoyed our own little “supper club” at Gaston after the show had ended. Poppy and Jason swapped magic tricks, and we had the best duck spring rolls, dumplings and dessert!).


Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion)

Natalie Weir’s R&J is, I believe, just one version of three – the first act revisited for this performance – and now I wish I’d seen the other two at some stage. It’s not new news, but nevertheless, it’s a bold statement to set this age-old tragic tale in the throbbing modern day dance club scene. Something about setting the story in this environment seemed cruel! But even Poppy, at seven, missed nothing and look, I’m never sorry to have taken her to a more sophisticated re-telling of any classic story…it’s never too soon to start talking about making good choices when it comes to party drugs.


Representing a mass of moving bodies on a dance floor can be a challenge, can’t it? But EDC opened this piece with a stunning cinematic scene of writhing figures under coloured lights, which established immediately, a sense of intimacy, urgency and helped to build the anticipation for a well-known story. It’s not like we don’t know how it ends, but the thing about a new take on anything is that we like to see how we GET to the end!


The star-crossed lovers are superb in their roles, the passion is there, and we really feel for them, as Juliet becomes the prize in a fight on the dance floor between Romeo and a Capulet dude, whose final blow is a king hit, knocking Romeo unconscious. This gives Juliet the opportunity to demonstrate her grief in a beautifully executed solo before taking a few too many party pills and dying in Romeo’s arms.


I’m under the impression we have no new young male dancers on the Coast at the moment, because if we did, they could would should have been there to see these guys. This is the kind of contemporary dance that is easy to watch and wonderful to remember. We know the story, despite the twists and turns in its retelling, and the dance is so good that, unlike when I was growing up dancing and wanted to be living that life on stage, I watch now and want to live that life IN MY LIFE. That applies more to Carmen though. Obviously, I don’t want to OD at a dance party.


Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

I love Bizet’s Carmen. It was my first favourite opera, and for me it still trumps all the rest in terms of story, character, sound, and entertainment value. And this reading of his Carmen absolutely blew me away. With three Carmens in one last night, we were able to consider the various aspects of the famous, flirty, fiery woman. Her vulnerability doesn’t always come through in the opera, but we see it in Weir’s piece. We see the passion, the ambition, the determination, and with just six EDC dancers, to the sumptuous sound of Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite, we see the jealousy, rage, and the ultimate revenge. It was a double-bill of bold love affairs and death!


After seeing Sheridan Harbridge perform during her sold-out Supper Club at berardo’s on Wednesday night, her own sexy version of Habanera: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a rebellious bird), I wasn’t sure how hot this show would be, but hot it was! The dancers are in fine form, and it’s easy to see why Elise May received the Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer Award for her work in this production. She seems to channel every aspect of the sultry, sexy Carmen, and watches while her two alter egos (Michelle Barnett & Riannon McLean) play ruthlessly with her heart and mind. The performances by Daryl Brandwood, Benjamin Chapman, Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Jack Ziesing are equally compelling and technically proficient. I’m so impressed with this show; it left me on a high, and not the Juliet pill popping one. I’m continually impressed with Natalie Weir’s work and I can’t wait to see more from this company. Let’s hope we see them back in Noosa next year.


Again, I’m going to say to Sunshine Coast artists and teachers, FIND A WAY TO SEE THE BEST IN YOUR FIELD! When the shows come to you there’s really no excuse. The Noosa Long Weekend Festival showcases artists who you can’t afford to miss if you’re truly serious about teaching and/or working on your craft, and the ticket prices are excellent value (it was just $55 for EDC’s 90-minute performance at The J Theatre).


Unfortunately, considering the number of dance lovers on the Coast, that’s it for dance at this year’s Festival! But there are still plenty of events happening over the final three days of the Festival, including the sensational Festival Highlights Celebration Concert on Sunday at the Outrigger from 12pm – 4pm.


Book online


And what’s next for EDC? When Time Stops September 6th – 14th at QPAC’s Playhouse.


Book online



A Tender Thing: Romeo and Juliet Remixed

A Tender Thing

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Full Circle Theatre & Brisbane Powerhouse

9th – 18th May 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


A Tender Thing

Romeo and Juliet Remixed:


It’s the story of star cross’d lovers…but not as you know it.



Another Romeo and another Juliet in a strikingly different love story.


Re-imagining the text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, British playwright Ben Power has remixed the greatest love story ever told to create an achingly beautiful new story of two older people.


Commissioned and premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009, and featured at the World Shakespeare Festival at Stratford in September last year, this 80 minute work for two actors is a provocative new tale of love and sacrifice.


Playing at the Visy Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse until May 18 is a beautiful take on Romeo and Juliet, which was commissioned by the RSC for its premiere in 2009. Reimagined by Ben Power (literary manager, dramaturge and playwright), yet using Shakespeare’s words, we see for the first time in Australia, this intriguing, very gentle version, which presents the star-cross’d lovers at the end of their life together. In fact it could be any couple, at the end of their life together.


The themes are ageless, universal; if you see nothing of yourself in these characters or in their relationship, you’ll recognise your parents, or your grandparents, or somebody else you know well because they are quite beautifully drawn here by the actors, if not completely settled as individuals. Don’t worry, they will be by the time you see it. The best thing that can happen between now and the rest of the season is that each actor borrows a little from the other. I’ll explain in a minute but first, I’d better tell you this:


Full Circle Theatre allowed me to see the preview, which is not something I make a habit of. As you’ve read here before, it’s understood that a preview is part of the rehearsal process; a final chance to “get things right” before the season opens. So it’s unusual to review a preview but I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to see A Tender Thing otherwise. And as far as previews go, Thursday night’s was pretty slick.



Imagine if Romeo and Juliet had lived, and enjoyed a long, happy life together?



Director, Linda Davey, and actors, Flloyd Kennedy and Michael Croome, have taken the playwright’s notion of a “re-mix” and run with it, offering insight into the stuff of long-term relationships; the bit that happens after the honeymoon. It’s tough, isn’t it? I know. And I know you know. Preach. Choir. Not gonna’ do it. Sam and I have been married for ten years (and together for almost fourteen), and I know there have been times when he’s wished he’d had an obliging apothecary just up the road and around the corner. There have been TESTING TIMES. There have been times when neither of us remembers what brought us together. Or kept us together. Or will keep us together.



There are times when we talk about things that are NOT THEATRE RELATED AND NEITHER OF US KNOW WHO WE ARE.



A Tender Thing certainly makes you think.


Freddy Komp’s thoughtful design lets us into several private spaces within the one setting; a lived-in weatherboard beach cottage, such as we anticipate seeing in a traditional staging of David Williamson’s work. Clever use of recycled timber, sand, bark and living plants in the intimate Visy Theatre lets us get close to this couple in the comfort and familiarity of their home.


An evocative soundscape and score (Scott Norris) works with moody lighting (Daniel Anderson) to highlight the twilight years of the relationship. Many memories are stirred in me – sound and images will do that – they’re simple things, from early on in my own marriage, like putting on Robbie Williams’ DVD Swing When You’re Winning to act like a sage smudge in the house when the other half is feeling down. I’m not sure the shifting, melting images thrown across the back wall made me feel the same way (in fact, they turned my thoughts to recent discussions with artists about combining live theatre and MRI images, so I was thinking, “Yeah, that could work! Let’s do it!”). In the end, as things so often do, the images become clearer and serve as a vivid reminder of the beginning.





While Kennedy’s work on the preview night came across as slightly self-indulgent, Croome’s vocals needed attention. It seems, from some recent examples we’ve been seeing around and about, that the connections between the breath and the voice, and between the voice and the body are perhaps not getting the same attention as they once were. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Are we too focused on being multi-disciplined and self-serving now, ready to forge a career in The Arts Industry and yet still not ready to take on a role? I recently saw a mature age student in a new drama course on the Sunshine Coast absolutely kill Juliet’s Gallop apace piece. It was a lusty, fiery delivery that left no doubt in our minds about the meaning of the monologue, even without (as the treatment of the text in this context demanded) her interrupting a younger student’s performance and schooling her on Juliet’s intent. Wow! We get it! Bravo!


A Tender Thing

I expected this pair, with their training and their “two lifetimes worth of experience” to give us a complete master class on delivering Shakespeare. As I mentioned, both Kennedy and Croome will have settled into their roles and taken a little of the other’s expertise on board by the time you get to see this production. And you should see it, particularly if you’re a theatre practitioner, or somebody in a relationship. There are some perfect moments, including Kennedy’s, “I have forgot why I did call thee back”, Croome’s take on the arrival of morning (this scene is so perfectly reversed we wonder why the lines were ever given to Juliet), and his unfailing, endearing support of his beloved wife, particularly in their dance together, which is perhaps the most telling, moving moment of all. Again, I thought of The Notebook. And of Up.


We know this story so well (if you don’t, you’ll certainly enjoy the show, however, a deeper knowledge of Shakespeare’s original text will enhance the experience), and this is that familiar tale, only it’s dressed in a beautifully coloured, patterned and textured new coat. It’s a brilliant cut-and-paste job by Powers, a study of ageing and enduring love; layers and layers that will get you talking (or mulling over) your own relationships and those around you. Full Circle Theatre have indeed succeeded in producing dramatically significant work that allows us to explore and return to ideas and thus see the familiar from a new perspective.




Auditions: Risk Theatre’s R&J

Risk Theatre


Risk Theatre

are holding first round auditions TOMORROW for their upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet.


All applicants welcome regardless of experience.


For all queries please contact Director, Shane Webb on 0410 195 577.


Come get your Shakespeare on!



Risk Theatre


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.

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