Romeo & Juliet: Sublime, Impeccable And Yet…
By Khoo Wei Cyn
Images courtesy of ShiPng.com
Romeo and Juliet is a tale which stretches back to antiquity. For eons, the concept of forbidden love was deemed the epitome of all romance stories. Produced by the Theatre For Young People (T4YP) ensemble which is based in Kuala Lumpur and directed by Christopher Ling, the performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac) on the 21st of September 2013 at Stage 2 was a play to behold. The play was presented in an easy-to-relate adaptation of the original by William Shakespeare.
The concept in which this play was presented made the theatrical experience so fresh and enjoyable for laypersons such that the Shakespearean lingo did little to deter the audience from enjoying the play. Romeo & Juliet revolves around a group of Form Six students doing a moved reading of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, and in the process they find themselves indulging in their characters so much that they build a new world around them, a world where reality runs parallel with art. This world would end with the ring of the bell, and every new day begins with the students going into their routine — marching into class and breaking into dance, where the actors are completely in character as Form Six students which they portray. But once the moved reading starts, their transition into their Romeo & Juliet world is immediate.
Actors Tan Yi Qing, Tan Boon Kit, Arief Hamizan and Aaron Lo portrayed their characters well. In the scene where Lady Capulet swore to cast Juliet out of the house should Juliet resist her arranged marriage with Count Paris, the lines of Capulet and Lady Capulet were reversed. Hence, in Romeo & Juliet Arief (Capulet/Benvolio) was performing the lines of Lady Capulet of the Shakespearean text whereas Yi Qing took the lines of Capulet. This was a good decision as she captivated the audience with her powerful performance during this scene, which left a lasting impression on me.
One of the most memorable scenes of the entire play was when Boon Kit (Mercutio/Montague) recited the lines “… I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes/By her high forehead and her scarlet lip/By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh…” and groped Arief to illustrate his description. The sheer bewilderment of Arief’s expression during this scene elicited laughter from the audience and I think he deserves an award for brilliant acting just for this part. Boon Kit was also expressive and amusing in his portrayal of Mercutio and Montague.
My favourite character of the whole play is Friar Laurence who falls under the jurisdiction of Aaron. He somehow adds a personal touch to the character, making Friar Laurence a cute mixture of dramatic, nerdy, awkward yet wise and fatherly-friarly towards Romeo. His acting was perfect during Act 2, Scene 3 while smelling and licking a paper doily in his hands.
Unfortunately, Romeo and Juliet (Joshua Aeria and Nadin Norzuhdy) didn’t stand out like some members of the cast. Perhaps they were very much into character as the students they play, and the students can’t fully relate to Romeo and Juliet. Or perhaps it is because Romeo and Juliet have lines which are quite limited in the range of emotions they could have.
The choreography for the dance scenes were well-coordinated and served an underlying message for the scenes they were featured in. A memorable dance scene in the play was when Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio sneaked into the Capulet ball which began like a 21st century style couple dance, but soon morphed into a comedic routine. Fighting scenes were so realistic that some members of the audience gasped when Arief was thrown to the ground.
As for props, the plastic chairs and tables prove to be very versatile, crafting all the scenes with just some assembly. The lighting serves as clues to the audience as to the transition from the play itself to the play-within-the-play.
Christopher Ling’s Romeo & Juliet is an absolutely splendid adaptation of the concept which makes Shakespeare’s version easy to understand for those unfamiliar with his work. It is certainly a masterpiece borne of painstaking effort and meticulous preparation by all means.
*A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms.