Theatre at UBC
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Dates and Venue 20 - 30 Jan 2010 @ 7.30pm | Telus Studio Theatre, UBC, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Shakespeare's love story has been interpreted since 1594 in a number of ways, but MFA Directing Candidate Catriona Leger has done a truly refreshing approach to this iconic tragedy. The highly sophisticated production which included an 8X11 Programme with high quality paper must have cost a lot of money, but being Theatre UBC, it's not a problem as they don't suffer the tragedy other theatre companies are suffering from cuts in the BC Arts.

In the programme, there is a write-up entitled "A Conversation with the Director". In this interview, Leger talks about her approach to theatre and directing. From her background, we find out that she's a professional actress, member of the Canadian Actors' Equity Association, a graduate of Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris, where she studied Bouffon cabaret which she applies in her interpretation of this play: clown costumes, grotesque make-up, and physical theatre.

She also comments about being frustrated with more male roles in Shakespeare's plays, and that's why she replaced the character of Friar Lawrence with Sister Lawrence (with implied references to women high priests in Druidism and Shamanism) and adapted the roles of Lady Capulet and Lady Montague as strong, assertive and sometimes terrifying heads of the household. In fact, I noticed this particularly i the superb acting of Maria Luisa Alvarez who henpecks her husband Capulet (Andrew Lynch) and dominates her household like Hitler.

I liked the interpretation of Romeo (Jameson Parker) and Juliet (Meaghan Chenosky), giggling and acting like children. Correct interpretation because indeed, they are children, perhaps in their early teens, and that's exactly how they should act. The love scenes were beautifully done, and in the climax at the end of the play, you could hear a pin drop as Romeo and Juliet made their final dying soliloquies.

I was also impressed with Ben Whipple who played Mercutio--natural-born actor, I'd say. I also liked the accent and acting of Juliet's Nurse (Moneca Lander). And naturally, a big part of the circus act which is a big feature in this production is Barbara Kozicky's fire act (see top banner). She also doubles as Sister Lawrence.

The Shakesperean Globe Theatre atmosphere was just right for the way the Telus Studio construction was built. Leger enhanced it by giving it a 3-ring circus ambience, with the actors mingling with the audience, offering them cookies, talking with them, but not being obtrusive.

This is a sold-out production, but hopefully, Theatre UBC will extend the the show.

© 2010 Ed Farolan