ROMEO AND JULIET May 2014

Romeo & Juliet

Review by Ken Longworth

THE timelessness of Shakespeare’s story of young love is engagingly evident in this outdoor staging in the garden at the entrance to a winery building.

Director Ann Croger has set it in Australia in the early 1950s, with the title characters the children of rival Italian families who have migrated to the new world after World War II.

Members of Romeo’s teenage gang show the nonchalance of their age as they throw a soccer ball to each other while discussing what action they need to take against their rivals, led by Juliet’s cousin Tybalt.

And Callan Purcell’s Romeo energetically climbs on to a roof overlooking Juliet’s balcony to gaze at her after their first meeting when he and his mates gatecrash a party being given by her parents.

That meeting takes place while they are dancing a mambo, with the Latin music reflecting their family backgrounds and the passion shown in their facial expressions.

Sarah Moran’s delivery of Juliet’s famous ‘‘Wherefore art thou, Romeo’’ monologue from her balcony after their first meeting also gets satisfyingly different treatment. 

She begins in a self-mocking tone, as if trying to deny her romantic feelings, but gradually her passion comes through.

The characters are all well developed, with Jess Rose as Juliet’s nurse being very much a friend of her teenage charge but trying to persuade her to see reason when violent events threaten the romance with Romeo.

There is also unnerving tension when Lachlan Bartlett as Romeo’s best mate, Mercutio, and Tim Moran, as Tybalt, confront each other at the start of a street fight.

While this is a youth theatre production, director Croger has cast adults as the older characters, with Juliet’s parents, played by Robert Moore and Yvonne Dean, being particularly demanding of their daughter. 

Chris Hembry gives a care-taking warmth to Friar Lawrence, the priest who does his best to help Romeo and Juliet as their romance develops.

But there’s no weakness in the cast, which also includes Tim Mallon and Alicia Osland as Romeo’s parents, Dominic Moore as Romeo’s amusingly perceptive friend Benvolio, Eliot Peck as a moneyed and well-dressed suitor for Juliet, Michael Andrews, Riley Hughes and Lauren Merritt.

The fight choreography by Blake Wells is edge-of-the-seat stuff, and Kell Derkenne’s dance choreography has a lively 1950s flavour. 

The costumes by Gina Bell and Jo Hathaway and hair styles by George Francis, Brad McNab and Lyn Craney are period perfect. 

Fyona Coulton’s production design and the lighting by Scott Allan and Tim Spohr also help to turn the compact outdoor setting into many locations.

 

 Review from Newcastle Herald..