Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet: Queensland Theatre Company. Playhouse Theatre. Stars Thomas Larkin, Melanie Zanetti. Directed by Jennifer Flowers. Season till May 13.
Little Billy Shakespeare is winning a new generation of fans in Brisbane Town, thanks to La Boite’s As You Like It, staged a couple of months back, and now a cracking new outing of Romeo & Juliet.
Both productions were pitched fairly and squarely at Gen-Y, while retaining their integrity, and that’s good news for the past, present and future of the Bard's work.
This Queensland Theatre Company production, directed by theatrical matriarch Jennifer Flowers, is winning praise on several fronts for displays of young male virility.
The trio of Thomas Larkin (Romeo), Ross Balbuziente (Tybalt/Bathasar) and Tim Dashwood (Paris/Peter) have been deemed abs-fab, while the senior performers have, sensibly, kept their shirts well-buttoned.
Much was made of Juliet’s youthful churebic look when the production’s mildly seductive posters first hit the street, but that’s fizzled out as the production earned wide-spread praise on its own merit at last week’s opening.
Prize winning actor Melaine Zanetti (who took out a Matilda Award last year for the more sophisticated Liza Doolittle in Pygmalion ) is supposed to be a girl under 14 years.
The Nurse (Caroline Kennison) tells us shortly that after curtain-up and frankly it wasn’t unusual for young teenage girls from powerful families to marry young.
(For instance Henry VII’s mum, Margaret Beaufort, married Edmund Tudor in 1455, when she was only 12, and fell pregnant within the year. Needless to say it was a difficult birth and both mother and child were lucky to live.)
The now seemingly ridiculous union, at such an age, wasn’t about lust and perversion, but rather power and politics.
That apart Zanetti is suitably stubborn, and at times bordering on hysterical, in her love for Romeo, while Larkin’s lover continues the great traditional of seemingly being immature and impulsive (although he and his friends are likely in their early 20s).
I have always been a bit cynical about the Romeo’s motives and ongoing consistency, if the pair had lived, but almost every actor I've interviewed preparing for the role has assured me that Romeo was honourable and there for the long haul with Juliet.
My reply? What you will!
Our Romeo and Juliet were passionate enough, but I was particularly impressed with the ensemble characters and would like to single out Veronica Neave (Mercutio), Steven Grives (Capulet), Caroline Kennison (Nurse) and Steven Tandy (Friar Laurence).
Neave’s Mercutio was a firecracker of a performance, while Grives’ role as overbearing Dad to Juliet made me feel uncompromising force and Kennison’s salty, overwrought Nurse carried much of the production’s humour.
As for Tandy, his Laurence’s demonstrates that he could dither for
as his meddling and confusion confirms that the species forever walks that thin line between happy endings and tragedy. Australia
Lastly I would like to make a comment on the famous Romeo, Romeo! Where fore art thou Romeo. It’s not, as some believe, Juliet asking, ‘Where the bloody hell are you Romeo?’ But rather why are you who you are, why are you a Montague?
It seems that in life we have to live with the cards we are dealt with, which explains why as both a young and old man I have never been tempted to unbutton my shirt outside of the privacy of the bedroom or the bathroom.