Lovers with all the chemistry of oil and water
ROMEO AND JULIET
William Shakespeare; Australian Shakespeare Company
Royal Botanic Gardens
Until March 9
Under the artistic direction of Glenn Elston, the Australian Shakespeare Company has been performing the Bard's canon since 1987, this year turning their hand to perhaps his most popular work.
Here Elston revels in the playfulness of Shakespeare's language, riddled with wordplay and double entendres, the enchanting outdoor setting lending itself to this lighter, more farcical tone.
Where Zoey Dawson's all-female 2012 production was cleverly staged in a present-day tween's bedroom, Elston's only updates are Dad jokes. "Add me on Facebook," a drunken Mercutio yells to one of his many amours.
Paul Norton's score is intended to modernise, but the music is pretty uninspiring, with Juliet's eruption into song during the party scene quite jarring.
Of course, it's the starcross'd lovers who must carry any rendition of this play, but unfortunately these two have all the chemistry of oil and water.
Jamieson Caldwell's pretty-boy Romeo is mawkish, a wet blanket compared to his knockabout fellow Montagues. Madeleine Field is better as Juliet, capturing the naivete of the lovesick child-bride, but both are unconvincing when it comes to the tragic climax.
The supporting cast outshine the leads - especially the boisterous band of Montagues led by Scott Jackson as an impish and ribald Mercutio. Nick Backstrom's Friar is also notable, as well as Brendan O'Connor as a tyrannical drunkard Capulet (despite looking diminutive beside his towering daughter).
This apothecary's drugs are not quick enough, the final scenes tending to drag, though it's still a competent performance for a younger audience.