Romeo and Juliet | BraveheartsLeft – Arky Elston and Madeleine Field. Cover – (foreground) Arky Elston, Caspar Conrick, Aurora Darby.

Conveying the iconic words of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to a modern audience is no easy feat – the passion, the prose, the difficult structure of the text is enough to terrify the most experienced of performers into silence. This was not the case for the young and extremely talented cast of Bravehearts: Romeo and Juliet; each cast member brought the exact amount of respect and forte to the stage for the Bard’s most famous tragedy.

Produced by The Young Bards Bravehearts education program in affiliation with The Australian Shakespeare Company, the 19 performers aged between 15-18 were joined onstage by Shakespeare veteran Kevin Hopkins as Lord Capulet. The influence of Hopkins on the young cast could have only been positive; for each and every one, from lead to chorus was as powerful and commanding as their mentor.

Watching Romeo and Juliet performed by the very age group it was written about gave the story a greater impact. The youthful energy and blind naivety of love at first sight was made all the more believable by the talented Romeo (Arky Elston) and his Juliet (Madeleine Field).

Without the benefit of microphones the cast projected their voices throughout the Athenaeum theatre to maximum effect and the 1980’s inspired costumes glittered their way throughout the performance. The glam rock look the cast embraced was an unexpected and yet brilliant choice to reflect the teenage angst embodied by the cast.

Scene-stealers Caspar Conrick (Mercutio) and Nelson Barber (Peter) were riveting to watch. Conrick’s energy as the ill-fated Mercutio was an absolute joy to behold and the comic genius of Barber was the highlight of the performance.

Directed by Anna McCrossin-Owen in assistance with Josephine Bloom and Glen Elston, Shakespeare was once again brought to life in a manner most befitting the great Bard himself. I cannot commend this production highly enough. Only in its second year, Bravehearts looks to be the stomping ground for Australia’s next generation of world-class performers.

Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare

Directed by Anna McCrossin-Owen

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St Melbourne
Dates: 9 & 10 July, 2011

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