Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Oct 11 – 26, 2019
Playwright: Joanna Erskine
Director: Sophie Kelly
Cast: Alex Beauman, Jeremi Campese, David Lynch, Aanisa Vylet
Images by Marnya Rothe
Shakespeare never let us see Rosaline, when he wrote about her in Romeo & Juliet. We knew her to be Juliet’s cousin, the girl who had rejected Romeo’s advances, before the famous lovers’ fateful meeting at the Capulet ball. Joanna Erskine’s Rosaline takes what is ostensibly a stock character, and makes her the central figure of an alternate teenage love story. We are reminded that it was only Rosaline’s efforts at chastity that stood in the way, and discover that she too, was completely enamoured, just as Juliet had been head over heels in love with Romeo. Erskine’s play represents justice not only for a silenced woman, but asserts female perspectives in a culture that is too accepting of the Bard’s persistent and pervasive misogyny.
The work is however, only marginally radical with its revisions of the legendary saga. It concerns itself mainly with supplementing the original tale, rather than daring to argue for a completely different, wholly more palatable version of events. Directed by Sophie Kelly, the show can tend to feel excessively earnest, and therefore needlessly reverential toward Shakespeare’s old creation. The production is nonetheless a good-looking one, made lustrous and polished by Martin Kinnane’s lighting design.
Actor Aanisa Vylet is an alluring leading lady, with an easy confidence that makes believable Rosaline’s new-found existence. When given the opportunity, Vylet demonstrates herself to be a remarkably spirited performer, as does Jeremi Campese, who brings a valuable vibrancy to the piece. Romeo is played by Alex Beauman, passionate and appropriately naive in his portrayal of the juvenile romantic, and David Lynch surprises with the intricacies he is able to locate for his interpretation of the Friar.
It is certainly a valid choice to create a lovelorn Rosaline, but some would find it disheartening that centuries later, the young woman is still being defined so resolutely against a man who loves another. Even though we had come to know Rosaline through Romeo, there is certainly no need to remain within his doomed narrative. We are all bit parts in someone’s story, playing minuscule roles for people we could very well have forgotten. At the centre of each personal universe, is an undeniable responsibility to create a rich life, and to ensure a meaningful existence. Rosaline’s story might have begun with Romeo, but where she went thereafter, is still anyone’s guess.