Romeo & Juliet | Shakespeare WAPhoto - Peter Stone at The Big Picture Factory.

Perhaps the most frequently told and most widely recognised love story of all time is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is a timeless classic and a clever choice for Shakespeare WA’s 2011 Kings Park season.

We got there at about 7.15pm to find the audience space already packed. We had regular sized camping chairs and so perched ourselves behind the crowd so as not to get in the way of anyone else. The stage has been set up at the bottom of a hill so even from our spot in the back row we still had an unobscured view of the stage.

The first thing to admire was the set. It was simple and well dressed, with symbolic references. The costumes were absolutely beautiful and it was refreshing to see a theatre company have the time and budget to invest in researching the authentic period dress and recreating it for the stage. More often than not, to keep it fresh (and less expensive) this timeless tale is retold in a less challenging setting. During one scene, it was very interesting to watch the Nurse dress Juliet working from her undergarments to corset, bustle, under clothes and cloak.

It was very difficult to hear the performers in the first part of the play, until the microphones at the front of the stage were either turned on or up, and then audibility certainly improved. Back after interval though there seemed to be intermittent issues with the sound and it was not always possible to catch the dialogue.

The very competent cast did well with the script and seemed connected to their characters. The standout speeches in my opinion were Stephen Lee’s portrayal of Capulet in “God’s bread it makes me mad...” His threatening dominance of his daughter, wife and the nurse came across with power and passion. With that said though, he was also able to embrace the playful aspects of the character very naturally. Other standout performers were Will O’Mahony as Mercutio and Nick Oliver as Benvolio. Their connection to the text and other characters meant they were up to the ever challenging task of making Shakespearean dialogue accessible to modern audiences. O’Mahony’s talents as a singer were also well utilised during the party scene.

Here are some tips for the venue. Take a picnic for dinner and get there early (about 2 hours prior to curtain) so that you can get a spot up the front. You’ll need to have a rug, bean bag or low chairs to secure viewing from one of the front rows. Regular chairs need to be placed at the back or sides. The reason it will be so much better from the front is because of course it will improve the audibility of the performers. Also, with an intimate, dramatic storyline I find it much easier to relate to the characters when I am physically closer to them and can read the expression on their faces. Finally, dress warmly and take a blanket because the show concludes at 11pm.

Shakespeare WA presents
Romeo & Juliet
by William Shakespeare

Directed by Paige Newmark

Venue: Kings Park and Botanic Garden, access via Forrest Drive, Perth
Dates: 7 January - 5 February 2011. No performances on Sundays, 26 January or 3 February 2011.
Times: All performances start at 8.00 pm
Bookings: – no transaction fees
or via BOCS Ticketing outlets & agencies – transaction fees apply
Tel: (08) 9484 1133 / 1800 193 300 or visit:
Tickets available at the gate from 7.00pm, if not sold out.

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