Romeo and Juliet

Roma St Parkland Amphitheatre (Grin and Tonic)


What better place to put on a performance of the world’s greatest love story than in an open amphitheatre, under the stars in one of the most beautiful parks in Brisbane?

The location just brims with romantic potential and surrounded by expectant picnickers with blankets and pillows I settled myself in on the steps for some Shakespeare ‘al fresco’.

With such a well-known classic it’s all about the interpretation. And Director Nikki-J Witt has chosen an eclectic view. The costumes are diverse and pinches of modernity bring the performance back to its audience like the Nurse busting Romeo and Juliet in their timeless balcony scene while taking out the wheelie bin and having a ciggie, or the infectious energetic comradery of the Montague boys sculling beers and talking dirty.

There is a beautiful onstage chemistry between the young Romeo (Marcus Whittington) and his fresh-faced Juliet (Nadine Kelly) who with a peppy, youthful schoolgirl slant twinkles in these sassy moments but also brings home the more serious scenes.

Their attraction is believable, as is their naive love, and the direction of their scenes is touching and innovative, especially their stolen evening together, where the nude young couple draped in sheets intimately steal the stage. The lovers draw empathy, laughs and knowing smiles from the enthusiastic audience.

Veteran Paul Sherman gives both a mature and commanding performance as the friar, providing a sincere portrayal. His evident experience carries some scenes where less experienced players drop the ball.

For pure entertainment you can’t look much further than the hilarious Cienda McNamara as Juliet’s Nurse. She’s jovial, animated and a real delight to watch.

Generally the play does well in giving us a taste of Shakespeare with a modern spin, accessing the age-old text and bringing it into a modern sphere. The challenge was to make Shakespeare relevant and enjoyable to a contemporary audience, and judging from the constant outbursts of laughter and the vigorous rounds of applause I’d say they’d achieved it.

At times some of the cast lack the energy or enthusiasm to carry the ‘minor’ scenes and some of the director’s edgier directorial decisions (for example the slow motion fighting scenes) work only to irritate.

Overall it’s an enjoyable production but be warned extra blankets are a must!

Playing: 29th April to 4th May

— Grace Naug
(Performance seen: Mon 28th April 2008)