Romeo and Juliet refreshed

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Romeo and Juliet | Bard on the Beach | Sen̓áḵw / Vanier Park | August 3 – September 24, 2022

It begins at the end. It begins with a gasp. Juliet wakes up to talking skulls and a fight scene as she witnesses the action of her story unfold, a witness to her own life as if she were in A Christmas Carol. We see this classic play from a new perspective as we’re along with Juliet to see how things have gone so horribly wrong in what should be a moving love story instead of a dark tragedy.

And there is a great deal of darkness on stage, with scattered skulls and candlelight. The masquerade ball adds to the gloomy mysterious atmosphere as the two lovers meet and quickly fall for each other. Ghazal Azarbad is an energetic, earnest Juliet whose delivery at times seems a bit too casual and colloquial. Daniel Fong’s Romeo is assured and exudes charm and confidence. Their chemistry could be more electric, but they work well together.

A unique and effective element of this staging directed by Anita Rochon is a chorus of bells to provide musical interludes and a sombre soundscape. Another unique choice is Nurse played by Andrew McNee with farcical comedy added to his lines at every opportunity. This was laugh out loud funny but also out of place in some scenes making it hard to take the character seriously when that is called for.

The set, costumes and overall staging provides a minimalist background to allow the story and performances to be the focus. Most of the time, this works very well, but in some moments the performances didn’t quite fill the small tent and the audience’s attention waned. This fresh take on a story that most of the audience will have seen on stage before succeeds in offering a new perspective that may illuminate something previously unseen.

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