Carousel Theatre’s Teen Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet

Dates 3 – 18 August 2007 @ 7:30pm (Mon-Sat) + 2 pm matinee on Saturday Venue Performance Works, Granville Island

Head Instructor and Director Jack Paterson Voice Instructor Carole Higgins Fight Choreographer Nick Harrison Choreographer Melissa Young Set Props and Costumes Nykiya Graham Composer/Sound Jeff Tymoschuk Stage Manager Natalie MacGregor

Reviewer Jane Penistan

This presentation may be unique. Since the days of Shakespeare it is rare to find a production of Romeo and Juliet in which the star-crossed lovers are played by teenagers, in a public performance. Here they are, and they are doing it so well. Shakespeare’s beautiful text is intelligently and believably delivered by the actors on this wooden stage, under an evening sky.

Read the placards on stage before the play begins. Romeo and his friends disregard these injunctions with aplomb. At once the message of teenagers challenging authority is in place. A message as old as it is young.

In this tragedy parents recognize their children, their own misunderstood authority and their own lost youth. Young adults recognize their earlier behaviour and grandparents see it all, once again. Adolescents wonder why older generations will never understand that all this confusion, pain and suffering is individual suffering that has never been felt before.

Here on Granville Island these Elizabethan Canadian young people are at one with an earlier Elizabethan age. The magic of theatre and the genius of Shakespeare bring them together.

Thirteen actors make up this company, in which there is a preponderance of girls for the larger number of masculine roles, in contrast to the playwright’s company where women were played by young men.

Chelsea Cameron is a thoughtful, intelligent, and attractive Juliet. Her speech is excellent and well understood, and her mood changes are well managed. Her overall portrayal of a rebellious but well brought up daughter in the throes of a first love affair and her bewilderment, panic, passion, and final resignation are all believably managed. This is a very commendable performance for so young an actor.

As her father, Capulet, Keegan Flick-Parker has dignity and authority and an astonishing maturity in his presentation of this father figure. This is a genuine, unmannered, performance.

As his wife, Veronique West is a mother to Juliet, not sure how to cope with this teenage rebellion in her hitherto well behaved child. Anais West is a sympathetic Nurse, torn by her fears for Juliet, but eager for her charge to gain her heart’s desire, and a comforter and constant friend to a troubled teenager.

Adam Duff has the difficult role of Romeo. His youthful uncertainty and bewilderment at the swift change in his circumstances, from a carefree teenager discovering girls to a hunted criminal, is obvious. This performance will gain in strength as the run continues. Jackson La Fleur presents Paris as an assured, privileged young man, in nice contrast to the younger, inexperienced Romeo.

Lara Aippersbach takes on the role of Mercutio, Romeo’s friend and leader of young men. This very physical performance is full of life, enthusiasm and joie de vivre. Another of Mercutio’s friends is Benvolio (Arielle Hillman), played with restraint and youthful wisdom, while (Mhairi Simpson) is an aggressive fiery Tybalt. Sebastian Kenzie, as the prince of Verona is a commanding figure and makes his power and authority very real.

Others of the cast fill double roles and all the company take part in the well drilled opening and closing chorus work. The dancing is based on authentic Elizabethan dance movements and well executed to Jeff Timoschuk’s timely music. The costumes are today’s clothes, tastefully well chosen and coordinated to emphasize the characterization.

This performance never drags. Thanks to Jack Paterson’s clever tailoring of the script for his young company it runs for just under two hours. None of the salient points or important scenes is lost in this shortened version of the tragedy. On opening night most of the front rows of juvenile audience were spellbound by the unfolding drama on stage.

So that families can enjoy a night out together, even if there is a disparity in attention spans or a large age difference among them, Carousel has provided quiet diversions in the concession area for those who may not be able to stay attentive throughout the performance.

Cushions and fleece blankets are available for the evening for a small subscription. Coffee, soft drinks and a variety of snacks are available in the concession Otherwise entrance to all the entertainment is free. Take all the family and enjoy a fabulous evening.

© 2007 Jane Penistan