‘Romeo and Juliet’ is presented as part of Anywhere Theatre Festiva
Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA)
Duration: 120 minutes, no interval
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, an ancient grudge makes civil hands unclean.
Poised at wrought-iron balconies, heckling from street corners and leaning out of red-brick windows, the clans of Capulet and Montague mark their territory, call forth the tension – and take it to the streets.
Were an ancient grudge a sleeping piece of dynamite, the tinder to its fuse is a masque ball.
The Capulets agree the nobleman Paris shall woo their daughter, Juliet, on her fourteenth birthday as “younger than she are happy mothers made”.
Romeo Montague attends, by invitation, to cure his crush on the fair Rosaline.
Once lit, the twin fuses of lovers’ passion and clan hatreds burn bright.
The settings for this production of Romeo and Juliet are old red-brick buildings with wrought-iron balconies. The exteriors are used to effect in the opening scene where we, as Verona’s citizens, are witness to clan tensions on the streets, and, in the lovers’ balcony scenes after being invited by Mercutio to “find Romeo!”
For the rest, we are comfortably seated in the undercroft car park which affords space for street fight scenes (and the murders of Mercutio and Tybalt) directed by Niki-J Price, the masque ball and the lovers’ secret meetings with Friar Laurence.
There is a glorious energy in this production with key roles being seamlessly shared between actors. Five actors play Juliet and four play Romeo. Two other roles are shared and several actors play more than one bit role.
Costume additions make character identification easy: Juliet and Romeo each wear a white shirt, Tybalt wears a gold jacket, Benvolio rocks a blue beanie, the Lady Capulet styles elegance in a black lace jacket, Friar Laurence wears a hoodie and Paris wears a masque.
While each actor brings their own interpretation to the role, there is an inner harmony to the flow. The acting is emotive; by turns exuberant, passionate or humorous.
Leonard Donahue covered three roles including Romeo and a short cameo as a parody of a love-struck Juliet which the audience adored. Sean Dow was a mercurial Mercutio and Dimity Shillingsworth played Juliet’s nurse with humour and heart. As roles are shared, it’s not possible to identify all actors by name.
Vocal delivery was generally strong with good diction and carried well in the open air. A small number of speeches were delivered at a fixed microphone.
With minimal sets, this version of Romeo and Juliet is physical theatre for the mind and ears. At strategic moments, the language of Shakespeare is augmented by Indigenous culture. Clap sticks, vocal percussion and stylised dance moves work well to freeze frame a key moment, add to tension or highlight emotion.
Billed to run at 120 minutes, our 90 minute performance ended with a narration of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet as a consequence of the missed messages between them and Friar Laurence.
The Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts’ Romeo and Juliet is an innovative piece of ensemble acting played with vigour and heart.
Note to patrons: As the performance takes place in ACPA’s carpark, there is no parking on-site or on Shafston Avenue. ACPA is near the junction of Shaftston Ave and Main Street, Kangaroo Point. Check street parking in and around the nearest cross-street, O’Connell Street, and in Connor, Pearson and Rawlins Streets.
Performance seen: 9 May 2013
Review and photo: Shirley Way
Directors: Stella Majewsky, Paul Booth, Adrian Williams-Brett, Niki-J Price
Cast: Jeremy Ambrum, Mariesha Barney, Benjamin Creek, Jadene Croft, Jessica Cross, Jakaya Dixon, Leonard Donohue, Sean Dow, Kaleenah Edwards, Angus Jones, Haylee Rivers, Dimity Shillingsworth, Jayden Stubbs, Joshua Thaiday, Emily Wells, Tibian Wyles.