Romeo and Juliet

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

22/07/2010 - 14/08/2010

Production Details

Brooke Williams and Mike Whalley pick up where Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio left off in ROMEO & JULIET as they bring Shakespeare’s greatest lovers to life on stage at the Maidment Theatre from July 22.

Stuart Devenie, Gareth Reeves, Geraldine Brophy, Peter Daube, Kip Chapman, Catherine Downes, Benjamin Farry, Dan Musgrove, Elena Stejko, Sam Bunkall complete the stellar line-up of first-class stage actors.

Romeo and Juliet live in a world where passions run high; a city torn apart by a bloody family feud. They should be mortal enemies. But they fall in love and marry in secret.  

However their joy is short-lived. Juliet’s father has another future mapped out for his teenage daughter and Romeo’s fatal mistake sees their young lives and irresistible love spiral down to heart-breaking loss.

Shakespeare’s glorious and timeless classic vividly captures the beauty, intensity and ultimate fragility of young love in a hot-blooded and hostile world.

“If love hurts, young love hurts best”

Brooke Williams returns to Auckland Theatre Company for a fourth season in the role of Juliet. After making her debut with the company as Mary Warren in THE CRUCIBLE, Williams went on to play the child in THE PILLOWMAN, where she was painted bright green and nailed to a cross in an enactment of a grim fairy tale, and then the deranged gun toting student Molly Rivers in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES.

Returning to New Zealand from Australia where he’s been pursuing his acting career, Mike Whalley follows up his popular debut with Auckland Theatre Company in SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER to play Romeo. After graduating from Toi Whakaari in 2005, Whalley was snapped up by Wellington’s Downstage Theatre and Taki Rua Theatre. His performance in THE CAPE earned him a Chapman Tripp theatre award in 2007.

“ROMEO AND JULIET belongs to our collective unconscious,” says director Willem Wassenaar.

“It provokes many associations and experiences for a wide range of audiences. As a director I am interested in using this knowledge of ROMEO AND JULIET as a tool in storytelling, I want the production to acknowledge this shared connection of company and audience; allowing us to delve further into the story.”

“ROMEO AND JULIET revolves around a society of the fortunate, imprisoned by a historical framework that teaches them to fear and hate their enemies. The source of this feud is unknown, but it is deeply rooted in people’s identities, they simply would not know who they were otherwise.

“The real question for Romeo and Juliet is: faced with this reality, would you throw away your belief system, your sense of identity and start from scratch? This journey of rediscovery is a scary ride and in the story of Romeo and Juliet it is a matter of life and death.

“The play’s real beauty lies in its extremes. In a world of adolescence and awakening, it’s all or nothing, life or death. When Benvolio revisits the events of Romeo and Juliet at the end, we come to realize and appreciate the couple’s huge courage, risk and vulnerability within their journey of transformation. What they do and are willing to give up for the sake (and mystery, uncertainty) of love, is heartfelt, honest and captivating.”

With boldy theatrical design by Andrew Foster, emotionally charged music and soundtrack by Thomas Press and Shakespeare’s hot blooded poetry, this is a Romeo and Juliet for here and now.

Chief Executive of The Lion Foundation, Phil Holden, adds:  “As one of New Zealand’s most widely recognised charitable trusts and long time supporter of the arts, The Lion Foundation is thrilled to help bring this exciting theatrical masterpiece to Auckland’s theatre lovers. It is particularly heartening that thousands of Auckland secondary students will see Romeo and Juliet, an experience will help develop the next generation of theatre lovers.”

The Lion Foundation Season of
Romeo & Juliet

By William Shakespeare
Maidment Theatre
22 July – 14 August
Opening Night: 24 July

Bookings can be made at the Maidment Theatre, 09 308 2383 or

Romeo Montague – Michael Whalley  
Juliet Capulet – Brooke Williams
Lord Montague – Peter Daube  
Lady Montague – Catherine Downes MNZM
Lord Capulet – Stuart Devenie  
Lady Capulet – Elena Stejko
Nurse – Geraldine Brophy  
Friar Laurence – Gareth Reeves
Benvolio – Dan Musgrove  
Tybalt – Benjamin Farry
Mercutio – Kip Chapman  
County Paris – Sam Bunkall
With students Paul Fagamalo, Mario Faumui from Pacific Institute of Performing Arts (PIPA) & Ciarin Smith from UNITEC School of Performing and Screen Arts 
Direction – Willem Wassenaar 
Set Design – Andrew Foster 
Costume Design – Nic Smillie 
Lighting Design – Nathan McKendry  
Sound Design & Additional
Music Composition – Thomas Press  
Dramaturgy – Lori Leigh*
Fight Choreography – Benjamin Farry
*Lori Leigh has been assisted with a creative sponsorship from Victoria University of Wellington.
Production Manager – Mark Gosling  
Technical Manager – Bonnie Burrill  
Senior Stage Manager – Fern Christie  
Assistant Stage Manager – Gabrielle Rhodes
Technical Operator – Rob Larsen  
Wardrobe Technician – Emma Turnbull   
Costume Intern – Emily Blanche  
Properties Master – Bec Ehlers  
Set Construction – 2 Construct

Rehearsal Photography – Amber McWilliams & Sacha Stejko

Joyful performances breathe life, passion and beauty into tragic love story

Review by Tamati Patuwai 26th Jul 2010

I have seen a few versions of Romeo and Juliet on film and stage. Given the gusto and action of this timeless romance the attention has commonly been weighted to the boys. However Willem Wassenaar has directed the play away from the more familiar course by paying more attention to the heroine, Juliet.

Played delicately by Brooke Williams, Juliet is almost entirely centre stage in full view of the crowd. Adding to this more feminine command is the jovial Nurse raised majestically by Geraldine Brophy revealing clear as day that the ladies have the reins in this piece. This interpretation is an absolute joy to experience, and the pleasure does not stop there.

Wassenaar’s treatment of Romeo and Juliet illuminates all the lyrical genius and brilliance that Shakespeare will always be known for. In addition to this, rousing performances constantly raised the roof as the opening night played out at the Maidment Theatre.

As Juliet, Brooke Williams’s fine balance from virginal princess to insistent diva is remarkably placed with clear expertise. At times Shakespeare’s words burst forth from her like butterflies released from a net. Other times Williams writhes; intoxicated on love as her desires burn for her man.

This of course is not to take away from the inimitable skills of the male members of the cast.

Michael Whalley’s nonchalant Romeo carves the air with his charm and boyish impulsion. Whalley really holds that difficult line of honouring the dense protocols of Shakespeare with a cool realism. Tena koe e hoa! 

Kip Chapman’s Mercutio is a fruity feast. Though Chapman’s larger than life approach could easily dominate, there is never a moment where Chapman loses his allegiance to the brotherhood. His charisma mixed with nimble eloquence is totally engaging.

As soon as Gareth Reeves enters the stage a warm buzz filled the arena that only men of the cloth can bring. Reeves’ earnest Friar underpins the tragic romance with a notable connectivity to his fellow actors in truth and sincerity. Finally for the men, Stuart Devenie’s soliloquy as Montague is simply acting at its very best.

In contrast, while most of the performances are compelling, on occasion some physical choices from the actors seemed strained and ambiguous. Whalley’s outstretched arms as Romeo, tend to tip him off his centre a little too much. Benjamin Farry’s use of a snarling voice, presumably illustrating Tybalt’s volatility, actually obstructs the lyricism of the text.

With regards to the set design,by Andrew Foster, huge wrought iron gates and walls complement the themes of domination and control within the play. The confined space also forces the actors to be close and available.

While this creates a sense of intimacy and simplicity, it is a little disappointing that this immovable structure remains throughout the play. As the moods transform from light to dark it might have been interesting to see the physical space change more dramatically.

Nevertheless the production in general is a delight and was welcomed by an enthusiastic audience. I left the theatre energised and in fact inspired. My feeling is that this is not only Shakespeare but more over Theatre in the whole as it must be done. Clear artistic poetry from set to costume (Nic Smillie) to subtle lighting textures (Nathan McKendry) and sound design (Thomas Press).

This has all been woven together with some of the most joyful, slick performances I have seen in a long time. I will be at the next Wassenaar piece taking notes on how to direct a play.

Congratulations to Willem Wassenaar and a master cast for breathing life, passion and beauty into Shakespeare’s enduring and tragic love story.

Thank you all and Mauri ora ki a Romeo and Juliet!
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

A love story for our times

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 26th Jul 2010

An ATC presentation of Shakespeare’s most popular play puts the directorial statement very much in the foreground and, as is often the case with heavily conceptualised productions, director Willem Wassenaar has some hits and misses.

The hip setting is designed to appeal to a young audience with Juliet singing pop ditties by Taylor Swift and the masked ball enveloped in pounding nightclub beats.

The production scores a sensational hit with an electrifying performance from Brooke Williams who creates a compelling Juliet for our times. Capturing the jittery energy of adolescence she presents a feisty teenager, aching for excitement and totally in control of her own destiny. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council