Henry Lawson Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet is a beautiful production of one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays. Director Nicole Madden has transformed Verona into St Verona’s, a Catholic high school. This decision works better for some scenes than it does for others - so much of the action takes place off school grounds that I’m not sure that this was a necessary change. However, I did enjoy the introduction of the Tattle Maiden, and the way that technology and social media has been integrated into the play is stupendous. Madden has obviously thought about the way technology would impact the story and uses it to brilliant effect – the tension is heightened in all the right parts of the show.
Roles that have traditionally been played by men are played by women – most notably Amber-Mai Feeley as Romeo, but also Gina Lawrence as the cat-like Tybalt, Bronte-Anne as Benvolio and Caitlyn Wright as Balthasar. These casting choices create an interesting dynamic in the Capulet-Montague feud, especially when we reach Tybalt and Mercutio’s duel. Annabelle Bedwell, Emma Misdale and Lily Hampson add levity to the show as Tybalt’s minions, with Bedwell’s comedic timing particularly sharp.
The incredibly strong cast, led ably by Feeley and Holky Bramble as Juliet, are a joy to watch on stage. Matthew Doherty steals the show as Mercutio – his Mercutio is charismatic and restless, and Doherty seems to elevate every scene that he is in. The other stand-out performance is Rebecca Fletcher as Lady Capulet. Fletcher’s Lady Capulet comes across as a woman who has grown cruel and distant in order to survive, and her grief in the show’s final scenes is palpable. My one criticism of the cast is that they audibly ad-lib as they exit scenes, and the modern English is quite jarring against the original text.
Madden notes that she believes that story-telling is multi-faceted and has incorporated dance and movement into the play; a choice that has created some of the most beautiful scenes in the show. One of the most poignant moments in the show is when Freya – originally Friar Lawrence - gives Juliet a potion that will mimic death. Holly-Leigh Prophet’s stunning choreography brings the audience into Juliet’s inner world and makes the ending all the more heart-wrenching.
All in all, a wonderful night at the theatre.
Rating: 4/5 Tattle Maiden Posts.
Photos provided by Henry Lawson Theatre Inc, Photographers: Rebecca Fletcher, Clarinda Edwards.