Romeo & Juliet

Sun 12th – Sat 18th August 2012

reviews

Jessica Reid

at 00:03 on 13th Aug 2012

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Fitchburg State University’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a world apart from my subdued English interpretation of the text. It is highly physical, bawdy, vibrant and loud. To me, its robustness seems greatly American.

Kim Connor is excellent as Juliet. While I have always considered Juliet weak and whiney, Connor’s character is incredibly fiery and opinionated. This works well considering the fast pace of the production. It is also shocking and intriguing to hear such a frustrated and jarring shriek of the famous line: “Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” especially when a metal ladder served as the balcony. Tommy Karner is less surprising in his portrayal of Romeo although, due to Connor’s strength, their relationship is more interesting to watch as it develops. Karner is one of the few characters to break the Fourth Wall and occasionally questions and teases the audience: surprisingly, this is quite endearing. He comes across as a very genuine character.

However, humour is an issue in this production. I was never entirely sure whether I was laughing with them or at them. This becomes particularly prevalent in scenes about lust. Romeo and Juliet are too overt with their sexuality. Masses of slapstick sex jests and an enormous quantity of kissing were quite often comical if only because of my discomfort at witnessing such enthusiastic and frequent public displays of affection. This includes lots of gratuitous crotch-grabbing. Even the Nurse, a traditional servant character, is oversexed and suggestive, gawping at the partially nude Romeo as he leaves Juliet’s bed. Obviously, Romeo and Juliet is a romance and it is a play about passion – however, the emphasis placed on sex in this particular production threatens to overshadow everything else. In spite of this, there are moments of humour which seem less distasteful. Ian Vincent’s Mercutio is a very sympathetic and clown-like as opposed to aloof and ‘cool’: thus, his death is genuinely moving. Vincent’s flash of seriousness during his death scene contrasts strongly with his earlier (purposefully) transparent attempts at entertaining the other male characters. It is a very well developed performance.

Due to the enormous cast, the actors ranged significantly in ability. Lord (Justin Nelson) and Lady Capulet (Shannon Gugarty) are problematic. The former shouts all of his lines in an attempt to express emotion and Gugarty is rather wooden. The gormless servant, Peter, is very convincing and his lack of expression is funny; however, his lack of vocal projection hinders his performance. Generally, the cast seem to take themselves rather seriously, especially in the crowd scenes where they appear excessively earnest during the too-frequent use of tableaux. The tableaux used during the party scene where Romeo and Juliet meet is particularly comical, albeit inadvertently, as the actors are shaking slightly in spite of the intensity of their facial expressions. This gives the theatrical device a somewhat amateurish feel.

Lastly, the show’s slapstick humour often translates into violence. While Karner may have felt he was demonstrating his physical acting skills, I was horrified by the number of times he crashed heavily to the ground thereby creating sickening sound effects. It is also surreal how many times characters attempt to strangle other characters. However, the fencing is very skilled and impressive throughout.

Although I found it to be quite flawed, I enjoyed this show. I appreciated its high levels of energy and exuberance and it made the production extremely engaging. I do think, however, it would be improved by having a smaller cast and by placing less of an emphasis on sex.

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Emma Yandle

at 10:58 on 13th Aug 2012

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With so much Shakespeare being performed at the Fringe, it’s easy to be skeptical about the quality. Difficult to pull off and easy to do poorly, I entered Fitchburg State University’s abbreviated production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with trepidation. Unfortunately, my fears were right on the money as it was an emotionally uninvolving production of one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies.

The programme promised that this was the funniest, sexiest ‘Romeo and Juliet’ I’d ever see. It was certainly the shoutiest. It often felt like they were delivering sounds rather than words and there was a lot of angry dashing on and off stage and impromptu punch-ups. Anger was the go-to emotion and by having most of the performance on this level made it just too volatile and stressful rather than saddening to watch.

This was Shakespeare-melodrama with big dramatic film music gliding in right on cue to let us know we were required to empathise, as if foreseeing that the actors weren’t going to achieve this by themselves. It was an odd combination of period touches, with the cast dressed in ridiculous pantaloon-esque shirts in every shade of pastel, and acting the play like a high school drama. Romeo and Juliet were so over-dramatic and shouty that they came across a bit brattish; I didn’t trust that they were even sure about each other, so that they were willing to die for each other came as quite a surprise. I see that the company was trying to do a new interpretation of this well-trodden play and there’s something to be said for their highlighting how young and immature the two are.

Yet personally it served to undermine my caring at all about their fate and therefore the ending was less tragic. However, the whole production had clearly been well rehearsed and went off without a hitch. They should also be credited for their inventive interpretation of silence, with the sort of Renaissance jauntiness that reminded me of Franco Zefferelli’s famous film version of the play.

I just wasn’t sure if they were being purposefully or unintentionally parodic. Juliet’s parents seemed totally unperturbed by her death and unfortunately in the end I echoed that sentiment.

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