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AMIABLE, LUCID AND EFFORTLESS

Print Version
ROMEO AND JULIET
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Ania Upstill
Presented by The Lord Lackbeards

at The Moorings, 31 Glenbervie Tce, Wellington
10 Dec 2013

Reviewed by John Smythe, 13 Dec 2013


In true troubadour style the Lord Lackbeards – 4f, 2m of whom two are hirsute – are singing love songs as we descend to the ‘ballroom' of The Moorings in Thorndon (but a stone's throw from premiere House, speaking figuratively of course). Validly setting the variations in tone are The Beatles' tritest song, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand', the Sinatras' ‘Something Stupid' (“and then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like ‘I Love You'”), and Leigh Nash's (this is) ‘My Idea of Heaven' (lying here with you).

The clothes are modern – touches of blue depicting the Montagues; red the Capulets – and the thrust space staging is simply backed by a curtained triangle flanked by masking flats, and here the gallery level is happily utilised for the balcony scene. Director Ania Upstill has ensured a fluid flow to the action.

With fluent ease the seven actors cover twenty characters as they play out the tragic tale of two houses divided by parental strife. And perhaps they are too laid back at times, where the dramatic changes could be more dynamically rung – specifically the moments of death. We may rationalise (spoiler alerts?) that Tybalt doesn't care when he fatally wounds Mercutio, whose bravado attempts to mask the severity of it. When Romeo reciprocates by knifing Tybalt we do get that he registers the gravity of his action. But the all-important ‘moments of nothing' when everything changes are not given their due when the Nurse discovers Juliet apparently dead, Romeo discovers it too, and Juliet discovers Romeo dead.

Michael Hebenton truthfully navigates Romeo's emotional states and marks well his moments of change. Katie Boyle is likewise fully immersed in Juliet as she segues from slightly petulant but obedient teenager to love-struck innocent with tendencies to lust while showing a sharp intelligence with her banter from the balcony. But then she goes and spoils it all by running whole sentences together as one word in ‘interior monologue' tone, despite the convention of direct address being happily employed elsewhere through the production.   

Tom Kereama wields appropriate authority as the Prince and initially plays a straight hand as Paris then, unaccountably, turns him into a wacky loon when told he's to marry Juliet on Thursday. If this is not a one-night aberration, the director must share responsibility for this misstep.

Along with an appropriately comical Gregory and a nicely bewildered Apothecary, David Lafferty finds a good emotional range in the role of Lord Capulet, the would-be benign dictator of his household. Cassandra Tse matches him well as Lady Capulet, manifests Mercutio with alacrity and contrasts them well with the Servant (Peter) and Friar John.

Ania Upstill balances an impressively swaggering Benvolio with a suitably studious Friar Laurence. Chennoah Walford accompanies her broad Irish Nurse (who this night tends to Act more than ‘be') with a well-delineated trio of males: Tybalt, Lord Montague and Balthasar.

While the pathos and tragedy could be mined more deeply, this telling of Romeo and Juliet is amiable, lucid and over in an effortless 100 minutes (no interval).  

(Pedantic note: The ‘o' in ‘doth' is pronounced as in ‘does', not as in moth.)
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 Gin Mabey