Romeo and Julia | Theatre AnpuFor a reviewer whose puppetry knowledge starts at Sooty and Sweep, moves into Mr. Squiggle and Bill the Steamshovel and ends with Dicky Knee and Ozzie Ostrich in the mid-90s, Romeo and Julia was going to be a very interesting experience.

The main bugbears regarding Romeo and Julia were not at the fault of Theatre Anpu, but with us; with Perth. I usually detest Rechabites as a theatre venue (of course this does depend on what is being performed) and tonight was no exception. Why did we place a marionette performance in this Hall? Every audience member from halfway up the seating and higher were straining to see what was going on, and I for one was having a hard time seeing the little marionettes also. A more intimate venue - such as The Blue Room - would have suited this performance. But in a city that is not used to new, exciting social and cultural activities or anything that disturbs it’s “country town by the sea” attitude, what can you do?

The majority of the audience was UNIMA participants and not locals. While it was brilliant to see so many people visiting Northbridge for a change (for the East Coasters - Northbridge is like the Cross, but not as cool, and a lot of people are scared of it despite it housing a huge amount of Perth’s art, theatre and pop culture), it was not surprising to see the people of Perth letting their city down yet again. When will we wake up and realize that some of the visual and performing arts happening here is internationally renowned? If we never attend these events, they will stop coming and Perth will end up wallowing in its own artless misery once again.

Rant aside, Romeo and Julia was one interesting piece of theatre. It provoked post-theatre thought over dinner, which I always love. If I wanted to sound very pseudo-intellectual and stretch the limits of the sensible use of theatrical terms, I could say that Romeo and Julia is almost Brechtian Puppetry. If not Brechtian, certainly alienating. Are the puppeteers themselves, actors, characters or the persona of their puppet? What exactly is the guy at the lighting desk doing? Is he the technician, the nurse, the narrator? Who knows? It seems as if Theatre Anpu’s team of 4 artists are absorbed into their own little world of puppets and fun, and we are left on our seats to watch it all unfurl.

There is no defined “stage” here. At first glance, it is assumed to be the painted backdrop symbolizing Verona, then, you think it might be the little “box” that the marionettes jump up and down in. To sound a bit “arty-farty” - this little puppet box/stage is an open door. Anything is free to leave the confines of the box, which also means that everything else is free to enter the box as well. The characters of Romeo and Juliet jump in and out of the box, the entire set shifts, moves, dances, the puppeteers act as an extension of themselves, of the puppets and of the set.
Oh, and the story? I’m never one to give away a plot, but think “Romeo and Juliet” with naughty puppets that just won’t stay in one spot. Deliciously demented, deranged and cheeky puppets that end up not being puppets at all. Weirded out yet?

Romeo and Julia also made me lament my convict roots. Why, oh why, were my ancestors shipped to the colonies to invade this beautiful country and damage its history? As a white Australian who is a mix of convict and Australian born European backgrounds, performances like Romeo and Julia bring the realization that the Caucasian history of this country is not very old, and not particularly based on interesting or fulfilling traditions and as a result of that, there is a lot about the world we miss out on in mainstream education and culture. Knowing that the history of puppetry is rich and old in Europe and all over the world, having the knowledge that Theatre Anpu does would have enriched the experience of the performance by 1000%. There was no explanation of the thinking behind the performance in the program, no directors musing or introduction so my partner and I - despite being well travelled and educated I felt as if the experience of Theatre Anpu and Romeo and Julia washed over us, rather than having us involved in it.

This is, however, the fault of nobody and is not really a fault at all. It is an honour for this city to be involved in UNIMA and though it, be immersed in the different cultures and traditions that have influenced art through puppetry. Romeo and Julia is lush, colorful and a real pleasure for the eyes and ears. Theatre Anpu don’t take themselves too seriously and that really is a delight.

Theatre ANPU
Romeo and Julia

Venue: The Rechabites' Hall
Dates/Times: Sun 6 @ 6:00pm; Mon 7 @ 2:00pm & 6:00pm; Tue 8  @ 4:00pm & 8:00pm; Wed 9 @ 11:00am
Duration: 75 minutes
Price: Full $46 | Concession $42
Bookings: BOCS (08) 9484 1133 | Tickets available on the door, unless sold out prior to the event

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