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Review- La Boite’s Romeo and Juliet: a gamble that paid off

Above: Jack Bannister as Romeo and Darcy Goodna as Juliet. Below right Eugene Gilfedder as Friar Laurence. Photos by Stephen Henry.

Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Todd MacDonald

Created by La Boite and QUT Creative Industries

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Grove

Brisbane

Season: May 25-June 15. Duration 105 minutes with no interval. Bookings: 07 3007 8600 or www.laboite.com

Putting a quartet of seasoned professionals alongside a bunch of third year QUT drama students in a highly edited version of Romeo and Juliet might be a gamble, especially when the students wear modern teen costumes to bring the action right up to date.

But it was a gamble that paid off to produce a highly entertaining hour and three quarters of non-stop action, with some fine performances from the six youngsters. It was a gruelling length for such inexperienced young people, but they didn’t falter, with never a drop in energy or character. It was great accolade for their teachers and the director Todd MacDonald.

The story was well edited – all the well-known speeches were there and all the drama, just a few minor characters were axed – and I didn’t miss then at all.

In another twist MacDonald did a bit of gender bending and cast Tybalt and Benvolio as females, which meant some hefty sword fighting between Wei Lan Zhong as Tybalt and Grady Ferricks-Rosevear as a nicely playful Mercutio (he also played the feckless Friar John who did not get the message through to the banished Romeo) and of course a short stoush with Jack Bannister as Romeo. I’m still not sure whether it worked or not. Maybe it related more to West Side Story and the female gang members. But it was certainly a modern touch. I liked Nichole Hoskins as Benvolio too and Nikhil Singh was suitably love-sick Paris.

A big talking point after the show was Juliet’s age in modern dress. The text refers to her being nearly14, which is too young for marriage in the modern age. Although back in the 1960s rock star Jerry Lee Lewis was banned in the UK from bringing his 14-year-old bride into the country, although the marriage was perfectly legal in America’s Deep South. Different rules I suppose.

Darcy Goodna’s Juliet however won me over completely. She was feisty “talk to the hand” modern teenager. All she needed was a mobile phone! I loved her interpretation and her battles against with parental discipline. Then she turned into a perfect mooning love sick teen with her highly romantic Romeo.

The set was sparse with no furniture, just a wooden floor with a series of trapdoors and a set of stairs. Not a balcony in sight! But this turned the balcony scene into a much more intimate encounter and a highlight of the night. The talented pair was well matched. Jack Bannister also showed his grasp of character the final vault scene, where he held the audience silent as he died.

All the teen scenes were exuberant and wildly enthusiastic but held in check by the steadying influence of the professional cast members. Colin Smith as Montague and Kerith Atkinson as Capulet added some gravity while Eugene Gilfedder added his talents to an overcoat clad Friar Laurence.

Bridget Boyle had a great time as Juliet’s Nurse. She always shows excellent comic timing and we got the full effect on opening night.

Romeo and Juliet is always worth watching, and this one is no exception.

Cast and crew ready to party.

Darcy Goodna and Jack Bannister. Below: Colin Smith and Scott Eric Scott. Photos by Deanne Scott.

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