By Sam Mooney
“Why would anyone go see Romeo and Juliet? You know how it’s going to end.” My friend Sharon’s statement pretty much summed up my feelings. I would have added “…and anyway, it’s Shakespeare and I studied it in high school and wasn’t crazy about it.” We went to see the Shakespeare in Action production of Romeo and Juliet anyway, even though we were tempted to blow it off and just sit in the sun. I’m so glad we did.
It was fabulous. We felt as if someone gave us a gift on a Saturday afternoon. I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve ever understood why people get excited about Shakespeare.
One of the difficulties I’ve had with Romeo and Juliet is figuring out who’s a Montague and who’s a Capulet and why they hate each other. I remember seeing a filmed production – or part of one – where the Montague’s costumes were all red and the Capulet’s were all blue and even though I understood what the director was trying to do it bugged me.
In this production the Montagues are black and hip and the Capulets are white and stuffy. It’s brilliant, it solved both of problems at once. I could quickly follow who was who and I understood why they hated each other. Now that we didn’t have to suspend belief the story felt relevant to the point that Sharon texted me after the show and said “Stupid parents of Romeo and Juliet. If only they’d put their differences aside before their kids died.” – a reference to Mr. Capulet’s sudden embracing of Mr. Montague as a dear friend at the end of the show.
Contemporary clothing and modern body language really enhanced the appeal. Sharon and I both noticed how much sexual innuendo there is in Act l and I attribute a lot of that to the body language. Act l is quite funny, something else I hadn’t realized.
The cast is supremely talented, some have a lot of experience and some are building their experience. Everyone was excellent but Sharon and I both particularly loved Nicola Robert as Nurse. The fight scenes were really well done, all the slapping and grunting happening at exactly the right time.
If, like me, you’ve found yourself thinking that you know Shakespeare is important and that you’re supposed to like his work but you’ve never really understood the appeal go and see the Shakespeare in Action production of Romeo and Juliet. If you love Shakespeare, go see it. If you haven’t ever seen a Shakespeare play, go see it.
– Romeo and Juliet is playing at the Central Commerce Collegiate Institute Theatre (570 Shaw Street) until April 22
– Performances: April 11 – 15 @ 10:00am, April 16 @ 8:00pm, April 18 – 22 @ 10:00am
– Tickets are $12 to @15
– Tickets are available at the door and by phone at 416 703 4881