Review: Romeo And Juliet (Bell Shakespeare)

bellshakespeareVenue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Feb 20 – Mar 27, 2016
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Peter Evans
Cast: Cramer Cain, Justin Stewart Cotta, Michelle Doake, Michael Gupta, Angie Milliken, Kelly Paterniti, Hazem Shammas, Tom Stokes, Damien Strouthos, Jacob Warner, Alex Williams
Image by Daniel Boud

Theatre review
Youth is wasted on the young, but romance is best experienced at a tender age. Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet is the most romantic of stories, which by the same token, would mean that it is a play that can seem completely ludicrous to some. A pair of teenagers meet at a party, decide to get married hours later and over the next few days go through hell and high water to stop their families from prying them apart. Human attraction and the sexual impulse are often mysterious, but instantly recognisable when present. In Peter Evans’ iteration, we see an abundance of sophistication and polish, but chemistry is in scarcity.

The production’s first half sees several energetic performers providing effective comedy and lively interaction. Notable supporting players include Michelle Doake and Damien Strouthos who delight with flamboyant theatrics that help us engage with nuances of the plot, while delivering surprising swells of laughter. Stars of the show Kelly Paterniti and Alex Williams bring passion to the narrative, but we are never quite convinced enough about the relationship to invest our emotion into their dilemma. In the tragic second half, an unravelling seems to occur, and we become even less involved in the lovers’ plight despite their catastrophic fate. Kelly Ryall does marvellous work with music, and even though wonderfully executed throughout, does not help the concluding melodrama take flight, and the greatest of love stories leaves us cold.

Juliet and Romeo are in love with strangers. Like many things in life, their connection defies logic but are indisputably real. Something magical happens between the two, but we are not privy to it. They are overwhelmed and moved to extremes, while we observe with slight curiosity, wondering how it is that innocent love can fade without warning. Time does strange things to people, but we must be there to witness its power. Our protagonists have seen little, but we can find solace in the fact that they had only ever experienced purity, if nothing much else.