Left – Jamieson Caldwell and Madeleine Field
Easily Shakespeare’s most recognisable play, the tragic love story of Juliet and her Romeo remains ever present in popular culture. Be it through Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 reincarnation of the text that breathed new life into the timeless tale of woe or the many interpretations since.
From an all female production to Graeme Murphy’s stunning choreography of the world’s most famous love story for The Australian Ballet, Romeo & Juliet has been done to death (pardon the pun).
Regardless of this fact, the story of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers continues to delight, entrance and create another generation of hopeless romantics with every new production. The Australian Shakespeare Company’s latest version “love under the stars” set in the leafy surrounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is no exception.
Shakespeare performed outdoors is always infinitely better, for the raw and unending space is not only the traditional setting for the Bard’s work, but allows the actors an endless creative plain in which to test their acting chops.
While most (including the incomparable Brendan O’Conner) as Lord Capulet and recent Ballarat Arts Academy graduate Scott Jackson embraced this challenge, other members of the ensemble fell slightly short of the mark and left the piece feeling inconsistent.
Having seen Madeleine Field perform as Juliet in the Young Bard’s program, it is wonderful to see the young actress develop into a leading lady to rival her veteran counterparts. Field’s knowledge of the text and of the character is superior as she plays a flirtatious and feisty Juliet with zest and intelligence.
Her Romeo however, (played by Jamieson Caldwell) appears less connected to the text and his performance suffers for it. However he does very much embody the spirit of a 17 year-old love struck teenager and plays Romeo with convincing naivety.
Directed by Glenn Elston, and with the musical direction from composer Paul Norton, The Australian Shakespeare Company has hit the right note in adding music to the straight drama. A song from Field and the addition of underscoring throughout the piece allow for more dramatic effect and demonstrate the power of music to communicate what words sometimes cannot.
A rambunctious Montague gang are a comedic highlight in the sometimes-weary play, as their infectious energy keeps the text steamrolling along with their upbeat antics and cheerful singing.
The Australian Shakespeare Company’s current production of Romeo & Juliet is a reminder that Shakespeare need not be stuffy, and will bring joy to both traditional and virgin audiences.
The Australian Shakespeare Company presents
Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Glenn Elston
Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (Enter through the Observatory Gate on Birdwood Avenue directly adjacent to the Shrine Of Remembrance)
Dates: Dec 20 2012 – 2 February 2013
Times: Tuesday – Sunday 8.30pm
Tickets: $25 – $40
Bookings: 03 8676 7511 | www.shakespeareaustralia.com.au | Ticketmaster 136 100.