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William Shakespeare’s “Romeo+Juliet” by W!ld Rice

April 28, 2012
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photo credit © Albert Lim KS

Event: “Romeo & Juliet” by W!ld Rice
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 12th – 28th Apr 2012
Directed by: Ivan Heng 

It’s kind of strange I never watched a staging of this timeless classic. Or is it we hardly get it staged here? Anyway, I’ve watched the movie versions; i believe I’ve watched the 1968 version by Zeffirelli (where the theme song ‘A Time for Us’ was derived, of which a strain of it  was used in this staging), the 1978 BBC version, and the more recent 1996 version by Baz Luhrmann which I totally loved.

So it is in much anticipation that I trode the path of experiencing the play as it was originally written for, the stage. What would be the treatment be like this time round? One realisation is how focused one gets on the text of the play, and it really brings us back to the importance of words in theatre. Maybe it’s because you have to really pay attention due to the nature of the writing, but it was beautiful nonetheless, and I nearly started using the “thy”s and “thou”s after. And I had never really appreciated the humour in the text before, probably because I was much younger when I watched the movies or read the play, but I believe Ivan Heng’s direction and the actors brought out this aspect of the play.

Following a minimalist approach to the sets, we are faced with a sloping platform that spanned and is the stage. It made the fighting sequences more exciting as the actors “flew” and slid across the stage, and at some point, I feared they would just roll off the stage altogether. I guess this minimalism also made us focused on the acting and text. However, it did warrant clamps for the roller bed which sounded a little distracting, but that couldn’t be helped for safety reasons and it’s just a minor thing. All that blood was pretty convincing too. However, it was missing at Juliet’s suicide…was it intentional or the mechanism failed for that night?

Most of the actors managed the lines well, except maybe an occasional inconsistency in the articulation by one or two actors. My friend and I felt Hansel Tan did well as Romeo, dreamy, passionate, yet desperate at times. I believe one of the more touching scenes was when Mercutio was slain and Romeo, the lover, was turned into a murderer by grief. That nearly brought tears to my eyes in Romeo’s grief-stricken speech. And Neo Swee Lin brought much laughter with her turn as Nurse. Julie Wee was sweet and feisty in her Juliet. However, the tomb scene between Romeo and Juliet felt a bit rushed over though.

I liked the finale which was like a closing march, where the slowly raised backdrop that revealed a creeping light thrown on the stage created a certain effect. The whole scene reminded me of a funeral procession. I thought that worked nicely rather than just having a blackout. It felt poetic, as all things came to an end, like the meaningless feud between the families and the conclusion of the play.

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