It's not to say that the show was bad -- it was simply impossible to hear. And, much as I like mime, I appreciate it all the more when it's actually meant to be mime, not when you're sitting way too far back to lip read and have to rely on your memory of a college Shakespeare course to get you through. Thankfully, I had a very good college Shakespeare course and have, oddly enough, run up against more than one encounter with the star-crossed lovers before. I had a definite advantage over probably the majority of the oh-look-what's-on-at-the-gazebo audience, most of whom decided the combination of a supposed romantic theatrical event and howling winds were a great cover under which to make out. The more tactful had brought beach towels.
It didn't take long for the audience to grow utterly bored and they began drifting out somewhere around three minutes into the performance. The plus side to this was that the faithful, or otherwise guilt-ridden, theatregoers could move up into their slightly-more-audibly placed spaces. Around fifteen minutes before the end of the first act I found I could hear perhaps a quarter of the actual words, and after intermission I'd manoeuvred myself so far up I could actually hear everything. Funny, I liked the second half a whole lot better, even with all the dying and all.
Before I got to the second act, the main note I could think of, aside from technical way-bigger-than-glitches, was that the cast was quite young, particularly Lady Capulet and the Nurse. In fact, they both appeared to be the same age as Juliet, and somewhat less mature. It was, of course, appropriate for Romeo and Juliet to be quite young, but surely their parents were at least fourteen years older?
Act two began with the famous fight with Mercutio and Tybalt's deaths. It seemed to me that Mercutio had a much smaller role in this performance than he could have, but it could have been that I tuned out a good bit of act one, and he doesn't really make it all that much farther. Tybalt's big scene being the fight, I felt "he" fell rather short -- of stamina, strength and the correct sex, as he was played by a woman who could purse her lips, but otherwise lacked the ferocity and verve I associate with the character.
The fight scenes in general -- this one and Romeo's encounter with Paris in the tomb -- were generally rather lackluster. They were quite obviously staged and, as we audience members wrapped around the gazebo where it was performed, we could easily see that no one was really getting hurt -- or, indeed, even grazing anyone else's skin. Perhaps for this reason, the fights were all quite short, which left them, on the whole, not especially good, dramatic or long.
The romantic chemistry was also quite lacking. For lending his name to be a synonym of romantic abandon, our Romeo seemed quite reluctant to actually caress, much less kiss, his Juliet. Although she was rather receptive, they simply didn't sizzle on stage.
Juliet was an ept actress, though placed somewhat awry -- first with a peer mother, then with an uninterested Romeo. She seemed a professional actress, relying a bit too heavily on standard Shakespearean delivery of the lines, with a bit too much emphasis on the famous ones. She did, however, bring a much welcomed younger, higher-pitched vocal quality than found in many Shakespearean productions.
Romeo performed well, save when he was with Juliet. He somehow even managed to pull off a convincingly Romeo-an image as a kind of metrosexual young hobbit in a white dress shirt and very nearly skinny jeans. He was, apparently, quite attached to his white dress shirt, and refused to discard of it even when a day had passed with Tybalt's (ever freshly red) blood staining it profusely. Lady Capulet similarly favored her long, flowing skirt and ballerina tights style v-back top, never revealing herself in any other garb.
The very ending was a bit odd and abrupt. After Romeo had writhed his last (never making that final kiss he speaks of; but, then again, he hardly made any of the earlier ones either), the entire cast silently circled behind Juliet -- saying nothing, evidently seeing nothing, or at least making no move to stop her, and doing nothing. They witnessed her draw her happy dagger, and then our brief epilogue was given -- evidently presuming her death, but without any semblance or even feign of the dagger actually entering her breast. Why precisely the entire town turned out to watch her suicide, but didn't? actually see it, though they were standing right there, remains a mystery. I suppose it must have been symbolism.
I'm pretty sure a good bit of the script was cut (we made it out in not 3 hours, but only 2 hours and 18 minutes, barring a very brief, perhaps 5 minute, intermission), though I'd be hard pressed to say precisely which parts. I think there was a bit missing at the end, and possibly with various friars, and possibly with Mercutio and possibly various other bits, but such cuts are necessary and actually much appreciated.
And, although the actors were quite good and generally stuck to a standard English-esque sort of pronunciation, there were a few resonant "knows" and "minds" and other such colorful flags of Aussie accents shining forth. Ah, well, it gave the show character.
The character with perhaps the most character (I still refuse to see Romeo and Juliet as anything more than walking 2D infatuated angsty stereotypes), was, as usual, the Nurse. A tall, blonde, high-heeled, short-skirted, highly made-up, binge drinking, shrill Nurse, she could easily have been a woman of the evening had she not had the unfortunate charge of Juliet to tend to. As it was, she clearly didn't do the best of jobs in that regard, but did bring a certain pizazz to the production -- particularly as she was one of the only actors who could be heard, if not exactly understood, during the first act.
Paris was well-cast as a strapping older fiance -- clearly superior to Romeo in terms of sheer bulk. It's a bit unclear how Romeo actually managed to turn the tables and murder him, but I suppose infatuation gone wrong supplies a sizeable burst of adrenaline. Or perhaps the apothecary slipped him a little something extra.
Someone seemed to have slipped him something actually every time he dashed on stage -- because, well, he did dash. Or perhaps it was a scamper. He was always bounding in, with Mercutio and Benvolio hot on his heels. Who does that? What trio of friends always runs 10 yards, then abruptly stops in the middle of a set of stairs before seeing fit to discuss their plans? Theatrical cliches, I know. Willing suspension, I know. But really. One can only be so willing.
Overall, the production was nice. Enjoyable; certainly not moving (but who really wants to sit there tearing up at Balmoral beach on a hot summer's night?). Utterly unexperimental (everything felt very Shakespeareanly normal) and slightly underfunded (it would have been nice to hear). Possibly hastily rehearsed and blocked in parts (stage, ahem, fights), and a little lacking in the immaturity of teenage infatuation, but generally a good night out. How's that for high tragedy?