Monday, 1 September 2014

Romeo & Juliet

Gold Coast Little Theatre

30th August 2014


I must be honest – it was with a sense of apprehension that I attended the Gold Coast Little Theatre for the opening night of their latest production: one of Shakespeare’s best known and oft’ quoted plays, the romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet

It was once said that “Shakespeare should be studied by all actors and played by but a few”. Meaning, of-course, when it is performed well, the work of Shakespeare is magic to behold - when it’s poorly played it grates like fingernails down a chalkboard. I am delighted to report that not only was this recent community incarnation, on the whole well played – it flowed well and was really quite enjoyable.

Jack Harbour & Stephanie Toft
In the lead roles are local theatre regular, Jack Harbour and relative newcomer, Stephanie Toft. While I think it’s fair to say that Miss Toft may have suffered a little from “first night nerves” (she raced much of her dialogue and often spoke upstage or simply too quietly to be heard – that should correct itself when she relaxes) her performance was convincing and generally a stirring effort for her “first outing”. Mr Harbour (of whom I’ve been impressed in the past) stepped up a number of notches in my esteem last night: his Romeo was charismatic, truly heartfelt and thoroughly entertaining.

In the pivotal role of Friar Laurence was the well-experienced Rob Horton. Again, Mr Horton gave a commanding and passionate performance (clearly one of the afore-mentioned “few”). The remainder of the ensemble carried their roles well: some were cast and played just as one might expect – others not so. But that’s one of the joys of Shakespeare: it’s flexible and lends itself to interpretation.

Artistically too, director / designer James Anderson chose to be experimental, although I’m not quite so convinced that these trials paid off so well. As one theatregoer was overheard to comment at the opening night after-party: “Won’t it be lovely when they get the sets, props and costumes!” Now I’m not opposed to simplistic staging, especially when working on a tight budget but was it really necessary to mime key hand props? The set itself consisted of an under-utilised (and rather unattractive) large grey staircase and three single grey flats – against a black floor & drapes. The cast were all dressed in their own contemporary street wear and the entire dressing list comprised of a single bed and one chair. There was a solitary red helium balloon on the stage left apron (supposedly a reference to the heart-shaped red balloon on the poster) but to what end? It did nothing, was never referred to … did I miss something?

Chris King’s lighting was adventurous and innovative. While there was the odd missed cue, dark-spot or curiously over-lit scene, I applaud the effort and again, I suspect it will tighten up as the show beds in a little.

However, if you’ve never seen a production of a Shakespeare play, I’d suggest this would be as good as any to begin with. The audience laughed, they cried and applauded loudly – clearly they enjoyed the show. Don’t be intimidated by the language - give it a go … you might just enjoy it too.

Photos: Shane Caddaye

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