Seven Plays in Eight Days: Wednesday – Romeo and Juliet

You will notice that the title of the series has changed: I’ve added another performance to the roster. I was at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, participating in the Teaching Shakespeare School, and we got a good deal on additional shows, so I got a ticket to Measure for Measure on Friday night.

But today’s post is about Romeo and Juliet.

A while ago, at another Stratford program, a bunch of teachers (myself included) got into a discussion about the value of doing “updated” versions of Shakespeare. The argument for it is that we need to keep Shakespeare Fresh, to keep people (read: kids) engaged and interested.

Our response at the time was that we hadn’t seen a “traditional” Shakespeare done in ages, and that our students certainly had never seen one.

Well, I have seen one, and it was fantastic.

Tim Carroll, and English Director who was the Associate Director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London from 1999 – 2005, brought a bit of the Globe to the Festival Theatre. The conceit, outlined in the preamble that replaced the Prologue, was that we were in The Globe in the 1600s, and that we had only the sky to light us. The actors were all in Elizabethan garb, the lighting design was such that it emulated the path of the sun over the Globe in London between 2pm and 5pm (apparently only 6 lighting cues in the whole show) including light cloud cover, and it was sparse in the way of sets and props: in essence, this is as near an approximation as to how the show might have been staged in Elizabethan times.

Which is *exactly* why I’m going to bring my students to see this production. Not only is it fantastic in its simplicity – you actually get to appreciate the words and the characters without a lot of contrivances – the interactivity with the audience was really refreshing and cool. Unlike the forced “audience participation” of Canadian Stage’s Shrew, this one used the text as it was intended, with the actors braking the 4th wall when it was appropriate *to* the text and the story. Fantastic.

The cast, of course, was brilliant. Seeing Sara Topham as Juliet was wonderful – she plays a 14-year-old really, really well. Daniel Briere was a good Romeo, and the rest of the cast was really amazing. It is, of course, Stratford, and finding a really *bad* performance is rare (even Colm Feore’s Macbeth in 2009 and the whole of As You Like It in 2010, while kinda awful, were more the result of bad creative decisions on the part of the directors and designers than the fault of the actors. These actors are ace.), so you come to expect nothing short of fantastic.

Courtesy cbc.ca
Courtesy cbc.ca

Definitely worth seeing.

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