Juliet & Romeo by Ben Duke
Scott Theatre, Tarntanya (Adelaide)
Sunday 6th March, 7pm
Photos by Tim Standing
Whenever I describe the premise of Juliet & Romeo, it’s instantly met with a smile and a knowing look. Ben Duke has created a narrative that alters Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet, where this couple don’t in fact perish from the tragedy of love, but stay alive and in a relationship with each other, until the need for couple’s therapy becomes apparent. This modernised plot is infused with humour and lightness as it explores the very real disparities within relationships, engaging the audience throughout; we laughed because we understood.
As in the title reversal, Solène Weinachter’s Juliet runs the show with her alluring playfulness, energy and hidden complexities, cultivating an instant warmth with the viewers. Kip Johnson plays a somewhat apathetic Romeo with humour and exquisite choreography, with the audience literally shrieking with laughter. There is an organic dynamic between Weinachter and Johnson, they are an easy and likeable match, especially in their creative expression of sex, demonstrated with lustful fluidity.
The highlight of this production was easily the refreshing incorporation of dance, movement and emotive choreography. While this play provided commentary on how we choose to narrate our lives and memories at a cognitive level, when words tend to fail us, there was movement, light, colour and humour, a visceral recognition of the dance of emotions we all experience in the gravity of love. As they dip into the existentialism of love and vulnerability, playfully snubbing their nose at romanticism, it is often to an energetic soundtrack of nostalgic and contemporary artists, including a song from Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation.
Juliet & Romeo explores both the longing for, and repulsion of romanticism and these tensions between fantasy and reality. We recognise in the characters the tendency to fixate on the story we think we should have, layered with themes of infidelity, expectation and depression. James Perkins’ dynamic set allows the actors to traverse their fantasies, memories, and storytelling with ease, although some of the props seemed superfluous. Unfortunately, with the abrupt ending, I was left feeling confused whether it had finished or was intermission. While disjointed, perhaps this jolt highlighted how joyfully immersed I was in the play and how time vanished. Clearly, I was thoroughly entertained.
Juliet & Romeo‘s Adelaide Festival season runs from the 5th to the 12th of March. Check showtimes and ticket availability here.