Adelaide Festival Review: Juliet and Romeo

Who: Lost Dog (UK)
Where: Scott Theatre
When: until 12 March
Tickets: here

Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t have been as big a hit if they had lived. The whole point of Shakespeare’s classic is the turmoil and the tragedy. But.. what if they had lived? Would this pair of star-crossed 14 year old lovers have made it?

In Juliet and Romeo, we find out what Ben Duke, the brain behind the concept and the director, thinks could have happened. In this alternate universe, Romeo doesn’t drink the poison — he thinks there’s probably more to live for. Juliet wakes up instead, and the two escape fair Verona with a little help from Friar Lawrence and make it all the way to Paris. Then 20 years pass. That’s where we meet them.

The couple are having issues. Their daughter is always crying. Romeo works late. The fact that Shakespeare has written a hit play about them with the two dying at the end has gotten to Juliet; she can’t stop re-enacting scenes. It’s time to try a more un-orthodox style of therapy to resolve their problems and, inspired by the hit play, Juliet suggests they act out some of their core memories from their lives together.

Juliet and Romeo is a very clever adaptation of Shakespeare’s story. It’s funny, it’s modern, and Ben Duke and Solène Weinachter (who also plays Juliet) have devised something very unique. Constantly breaking the fourth wall, Romeo (played by Kip Johnson) and Juliet invite the audience into the room, asking questions and talking directly to us. They re-live scenes, some straight from the original and some imagined, incorporating beautifully choreographed dance into the memories.

Johnson and Weinachter’s performances are very good. They both are so natural, totally embodying Romeo and Juliet, and are at such ease with the audience. Their excellent chemistry means they feel real in their roles. They are both additionally very talented dancers, sweeping each other across the stage, rolling and tugging. It’s mesmerising to watch.

The performance is accompanied by a choice score, soundtracked by love songs that bring the scenes to life. I in particular appreciate the inclusion of Des’ree’s I’m Kissing You, which features in the Baz Luhrmann adaptation and destroys me with every listen without fail.

Juliet and Romeo is a funny and original take on the Shakespeare classic. Sitting with the realness of Juliet and Romeo’s normal lives in their 30s makes it just that much more tragic. The inclusion of the choreography is different, but it works well. Sure it’s basic to love Romeo and Juliet, but I really do love this play and this adaptation is worth a watch for anyone who’s read or watched original adaptations and enjoyed it.

4 stars

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