Theatre is awash with productions of Romeo and Juliet, many of which re-imagine, re-invent, abridge, modify the language and contemporise the Bard’s great tale of a pair of star-cross’d lovers who take their own lives.
Indeed, conventional productions of the play in the long-established, time-honoured approach are rare. It’s a pleasure, therefore, to see the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s charming, intoxicating and enormously satisfying replication of this classic Shakespearean romance with all the emotional resonance that entails.
Megan Dansie directs her marvellous cast with authority. She blocks the stage well, ensuring the players tower with passion and energy, yet she also leaves space for the actors to breathe. The result is an ageless story which is lush with convention and poetry, and it is delivered in the spirit intended by the world’s greatest playwright.
Although the production is reverential to the source material and accurate without any major trimming of the original, it’s not too literal, since the ensemble has its own style, dignity and intensity. Dansie harnesses all the good qualities of her performers, delivering to her audience a lovely, sensitive and rewarding experience.
Everyone involved in this production is top-notch. Sharon Malujlo’s costumes are sumptuous, Scott Cleggett’s lighting and Mark Reynolds’ sound are instinctive and appropriate, and Vanessa Redmond’s choreography is exceptional. The production team provides a solid base for the stellar cast to shine.
There aren’t any weaknesses on stage, but some people deserve a notable mention. Cate Rogers is wonderful as the bawdy, witty, comically inappropriate and loyal nurse; Gary George is remarkable as Friar Laurence; Ronald Densley has a strong presence as the quickly-angered and head-strong Tybalt; and Paul Rodda is sharp as the clever, quick-witted and astute Mercutio. However, Abby Hampton steals the show with her portrayal of the naïve, determined and lovelorn Juliet, who becomes increasing more self-assured as the plot develops.
For the Theatre Guild’s version of Romeo & Juliet, the play’s the thing. The Bard’s words are to the wise and it is done with full awareness of the way the play works – and it works brilliantly.
The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s production of Romeo and Juliet is playing at the Little Theatre, The Cloisters, University of Adelaide, until May 17.
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