Audience loves new take on Romeo and Juliet
In an effort to reach younger audiences, more and more of Shakespeare’s plays are being updated.
The hope is that by doing so they are being able to connect with his work, albeit 400 years after his death.
Such was the case with Romeo and Juliet, performed under the auspices of Shakespeare on the Rock at the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.
The updated version by Midsummer Scene out of Dubrovnik, Croatia ran over two nights at Ruth Seaton James and was directed by Sean Aita.
The backdrop for the “story of woe” moved from 14th-century Verona to the 1960s, capturing a time when underworld organised crime networks of the Mafia were in full swing in Italy.
With convincing costumes designed by Maria Vazeou and some West Side Story-style gang fight scenes directed by Erica Gould, the time period was brought to life. But it was choreographer Claire Camble-Hutchins’s groovy dance number during the party where Romeo meets his Juliet for the first time, that really pulled the audience in.
The Midsummer Scene, which performs annually during the summer festival in Dubrovnik, has held several Shakespeare plays here including Twelfth Night in 2017 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2019. The group is best known for its open-air theatre staged at the legendary Fort Lovrjenac in Dubrovnik. It would be incredible to see these performances staged outside, at one of Bermuda’s own forts.
A dramatic backdrop would really help capture the turmoil, particularly of a play like Romeo and Juliet, regardless of the time period it is set in. For this performance, the stage was quite sparse.
With only a small number of cast members, the focus relied heavily on the actors delivering Shakespeare’s complicated and intricate lines with the emotion needed for the audience to believe in the predicament of our “star-crossed lovers”. They were spot-on, nailing their lines and creating the melodrama that was needed to keep the pace going.
Speaking of melodrama, a tragedy of this sort needs its share of heightened emotions; the cast also nailed the much needed humour that mingles even in Shakespeare’s darkest plays.
Filip Krenus’s Mercutio was an audience favourite. He did an excellent job of capturing the quick-witted sidekick, who helps keep the play grounded with his views on love and fate.
It’s hard to hate on such a beloved story but, while there are parts of Romeo and Juliet that resonate today, it is a tough sell to persuade an audience to accept a 14-year-old being married off although younger people might be more willing to believe in the power of love at first sight.
•Romeo and Juliet ran Monday and Tuesday at 8pm at Ruth Seaton James as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts
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