The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Review: Romeo and Juliet at Victoria University

by Emma Maguire on May 22, 2018 in Theatre

Victoria University’s Romeo and Juliet is an utter triumph of stagecraft.

The mood within Studio 77, the campus’ main blackbox theatre, seems fittingly Shakespearean as thunder rolls overhead and rain pours down outside. We’re all here to see Romeo and Juliet, arguably one of theatre’s most played-out stories, but I’ve never seen it quite like this.

Our cast, members of the Thea302 class, have found themselves in an abandoned theatre. As they dance about madly, and fill the space with their energy, they become somehow possessed by the ghosts of Romeo and Juliet past, and draw the story out into the space with us.

The thrust stage, one of Shakespeare’s trademarks, is used brilliantly, and with much abandon – I’m fairly sure I got bits of cauliflower down my shirt at one point.

Want to know how an assortment of vegetables factors into this bonkers equation?

Well, you’ll just have to see the show.

Director Dr Lori Leigh has taken a play that is often seen as just a tragedy and made it into something bigger and brighter. While there is, of course, still tragedy – we can’t have a happy ending in this cautionary tale, after all – there is a bawdiness and a joy to this piece that cannot be challenged. We tend to focus on the sadness of this story – the warring of two families; brutality, murder and grief – but in actuality, the first half can almost be read as a comedy. It’s two horny teens, thrust together by circumstance, who want nothing more than to escape the bureaucracy of their families and end up happily together.

That is certainly, uh, shown in this iteration.

Major kudos to the cast, crew, and director, who’ve made a well-known script utterly mad and beautiful. Our Romeo (Caleb Hill) and Juliet (Rosie Glover), played their roles with an incredible youthful vibrancy. Their relationship was so intimate and lustful that it felt oddly voyeuristic to be watching it, and I loved the strength with which it was portrayed.

I’d also like to mention the role of the Nurse (played by Mollie Fox Fraser). Usually I have a hard time with that character – as comic relief she’s always weirded me out – but Fraser played her with a legitimacy and an energy that translated very well once the story started to get darker.

Romeo and Juliet has more pop songs than you’d expect, a whole ton of dick jokes, and a earnest heart that’ll stay with me for a long time. The cast was incredibly strong, there was a very powerful aesthetic, and the whole production was an absolute delight to see. I hope to see these performers in other things soon, because they’re all damn talented.

What an absolutely brilliant piece of theatre.

Emma Maguire

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