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THEATRE: 27 FEBRUARY 2016

By GERALDINE WORTHINGTON

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare | Directed by Peter Evans

Bell Shakespeare Company (https://www.bellshakespeare.com.au) | Sydney Opera House | Until 27 March

For many centuries, Romeo and Juliet has been considered one of the most loved of Shakespeare’s works. It was, for example, the first play to be revived when the theatres were re-opened during the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Since then it has continued to entertain audiences on stage and film in both conventional and appropriated forms.

Particularly on film, it has been left to a grungy setting to emphasise a world in which order is undermined by violence, but in this most traditional of performances at the Opera House, Anna Cordingley’s meticulous set and costume design chooses to return us to a most conventional setting — balcony and all.

Staged combat scenes feature in the first half and are sharply choreographed by Nigel Poulton, but it is a focus on Shakespearean language which ultimately, in this production, creates the conflict. Peter Evan’s academic directorial approach expertly highlights to the audience that love and sex are intertwined in this society with violence and death.

The two dignified families, the Capulets (Angie Milliken and Justin Stewart Cotta), Lord Montague (Cramer Cain) and their respective servants, dexterously deliver a snapshot of the society in which children are a commodity. Alex Williams as Romeo and Kelly Paterniti as Juliet accurately articulate the lyrical language of the lovers and authentically and convincingly convey young and passionate love via the romantic wooing of the period.

As the melancholic and depressed youth Romeo, Williams solidly symbolises young love, whilst Paterniti perfects the fickle qualities of an adolescent. Quickly and convincingly she establishes the rapid transition from child to adult; from sheltered and innocent girl into a self-assured, devoted and capable woman.

In the crucial role of Friar Laurence, Hazem Shammas successfully signals that impulsiveness is not just a trait of the young, and Michelle Doake as the nurse to Juliet and surrogate mother provides the lighter and comedic moments, especially in the first half.

This play is, of course, a commentary on parenting and all the pitfalls therein. And the honesty of the play is essentially in its dealing with the feelings of teenagers, especially around the subject of sex and its implications. It is this topic that has always made it very appealing to a young audience, so regardless of the approach — traditional or postmodern — as a play it will endure for many more centuries.