Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet
By William Shakespeare. Presented by The Australian Shakespeare Company. Rippon Lea House and Gardens, 192 Hotham St, Elsternwick. 4 - 21 March, 2019.

This is an ambitious project which shows great vision in terms of how Shakespeare should be approached in outdoor locations. The production uses the historic home as an exceptional backdrop and makes good use of some staging and lighting techniques to capture the mood of the play and to highlight the magnificence of the location. The balcony scene was particularly impressive and allowed unusual aspects of the text to be drawn out. This made the scene larger than the life while retaining its intimacy.

The casting of the lead roles proves very effective. Juliet (Ayesha Madon) and Romeo (Samuel Rowe) exude a youthful innocence and naivety that captures the folly and spontaneity of their romance. Mercutio (Paul Morris) was conveyed as a somewhat edgy persona and this was a well contextualised interpretation of the character.

In this production the two houses are distinguished by race. The Capulets are portrayed as a predominantly Indian family, and there is a distinct reference to Bollywood costumes and dancing. However, the Montague family costuming is less cohesive, and the Elizabethan attire does not provide an interesting cultural contrast to the Capulets. 

The company produced some solid performances and showed great command and control of the space; this is especially evident in the interesting and well-executed dance and fight sequences. However, the smaller scenes involving fewer performers were sometimes dwarfed by the grandeur of the surroundings. 

Patricia Di Risio

Photographer: Nicole Cleary

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