The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
Romeo And Juliet
Festivaltheater.ca and YouTube Summer 2020
The most impressive
thing about this 2017 production from Stratford Ontario's Festival
Theatre is the casting and performance of Sara Farb as Juliet.
Juliets are too often
cast by type, the youngest, blondest and most
born-to-be-a-victim-looking actress in a company automatically
getting the role. It is to the credit of director Scott Wentworth
that he not only cast Farb against type but recognised that the air
of intelligence and strength she brings to Juliet would enrich the
Farb's Juliet is not a
shrinking wallflower or an ethereal
beauty. In Shakespearean terms she is more Beatrice than Ophelia, an
intelligent woman who knows she's intelligent but is not too beyond
the thirteen-year-old girl she lets us glimpse from time to time,
especially in her scenes with Seana McKenna's warm and motherly
Next to this Juliet,
Antoine Yared's Romeo is very much a
not-fully-formed adolescent. He's an attractive kid, but still
clearly a kid and, tragic ending apart, there is no doubt who's
getting the better deal in this romance.
interest only to English teachers: when Romeo and Juliet meet, the
first fourteen lines of their dialogue make up a perfect sonnet. It's
a sort of private joke Shakespeare had with himself, showing how
instantly in sync the lovers are.
I've never seen any
anything with that bit of trivia until now. Yared's Romeo is showing
off as he starts the scene, counting off the metre on his fingers to
make sure she sees how clever and poetic he's being.
And then Farb
tops him by matching him beat by beat and rhyme by rhyme, letting him
and us see that she's not only in tune with him but maybe even better
at the game they're playing.
Of course this is all in
the play. Another thing English teachers like to point out is that it
is Juliet who first mentions marriage and that she generally handles
crises better than Romeo.
Director and actors run
with that as well,
with Romeo's despair at being banished turned into a complete
adolescent tantrum, while she handles the prospect of awakening in a
tomb with determined aplomb. The potion speech is, in fact, Sara
Farb's weakest moment in the play because we really can't believe
this Juliet is as panicky as her lines indicate.
Beyond the central
couple there isn't much of interest to those who know the play. What
may be an accident of casting makes Romeo's friends – Jamie Mac's
amiable Benvolio and Evan Buliung's hothead Mercutio – seem older
than he, while Zlatomir Moldovanski's Tybalt appears a generation
older than any of them.
Poddubiuk keeps the stage
dark even in the daylight scenes, while dressing everyone in black or
dark colours gives the whole thing a Puritan feel that does not seem
in keeping with the play.
The video recording, directed by Barry Avrich, is excellent.
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