Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Jul 31 – Aug 24, 2013
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Stephen Wallace
Actors: Rainee Lyleson, Dan Webber, Byron Hajduczok, Lisa Peers
This production of Romeo & Juliet transports the Montague and Capulet families to modern day Sydney, casting them as “Anglo-Saxon” and “Lebanese Muslim” adversaries. This is a well-meaning decision but its execution is rather less straightforward. Differences in religious beliefs are more complex than a family feud, which is essentially what the script offers, and presents a “square peg in a round hole” scenario, as the director works hard to make this vision work within the confines of Shakespeare’s classic text.
Young actor Dan Webber plays Romeo and does a marvellous job, especially in his scenes with Juliet. He sometimes rushes through scenes due to being so high energy, but the earnestness he brings to the role is exciting and refreshing. Rainee Lyleson plays a Muslim version of Juliet, but thankfully does not “perform” the religion beyond costume choices. She is a delightful sprightly girl, and comes alive in romantic moments with Romeo. Byron Hajduczok’s Mercutio and Lisa Peers’ Nurse are stronger performances in the show, both displaying confidence in their cleverly entertaining work.
Lighting design is utilised well, especially with scene changes, providing the audience with meaningful visual cues that introduce new settings efficiently. Set design is basic but effective, allowing for a wide variation in character blocking, which is a strength of this production. The actors move freely and use the stage to their best advantage. It is to the director’s credit that he leaves no room for stagnation, always careful to keep the play moving fast and lively.