“Never was there a tale of more woe
than that of Juliet and her Romeo…”
As can be expected, Romeo and Juliet REDUX is a spin on Shakespeare’s classic tale of romance and tragedy, but stripped down to its barest of parts. The entire cast is fielded by four performers – Mekdes Teshome as Juliet, David daCosta as Romeo, Robin Hodge and Lawrence Evenchick as everyone else – on a bare stage, with only two props to work from. From what is originally a five act play, they’ve reduced it down to a one act, hour and a half performance.
However, with the technical effects – the lighting and the live soundscape – and the pure skill of the performers, that’s all that is needed.
It was a pleasure to see Lawrence Evenchick and Robin Hodge on stage together, fielding all the characters that Teshome and daCosta weren’t – Mercutio, Tilbalt, the Nurse and many more. Their interactions brought flare to this performance; they were the comic relief and the tragic violence, they pushed the boundaries and embraced their roles in a way you’d have to see to understand.
I’ve seen Evenchick is several productions, but this was a new kind of role for me to see him in, and I’m glad that I did. I already knew he had command of classic verse, but this performance thrust him into a role that relied on physicality as much as did on vocal acting; he gives his version of Mercutio a set of teeth that are as sharp as his tongue.
Hodge serves as a perfect counterpoint to Evenchick. Together they become two equally impressive and, at times, antagonistic forces: Hodge’s Benvolio and Tibalt to Evenchick’s Mercutio. Hers is perhaps the most active of roles, jumping and tumbling across the stage in combat and comedy.
Full disclosure, I’ve always been a bit cynical when it comes to the characters of Romeo and Juliet and how their love-at-first-sight mentality gets portrayed, but I have to say that I was exceptionally surprised by Teshome’s Juliet. As with the entire performance, Teshome roots her character in the classic Juliet but infuses her with these subtle modern twists, from some of her vocal inflections to aspects of her physicality, creating an interestingly hybridized character.
Neither am I typically impressed by bursts of tragic emotion – less than believable screams or wails – but Teshome, in just the way she carries herself, generates a sense of tragedy that borders the realistic.
It would be a disservice to leave lighting designer Laura Wheeler and live soundscape artist Scottie Irving without a mention considering the impact they both had on this performance. Very subtle, Irving’s soundscape adapts to the action on stage, further developing the atmosphere that the performers are developing. Even more impressive is that this soundscape isn’t just a pre-recorded track that the performers need to time themselves out to; the soundscape is created live, as a response to the action on stage.
Blend this with Wheeler’s atmospheric lighting effects, which serves as the backdrop on a very neutral stage, and you create a show that is highly impressive from a technical standpoint. The colours and blending effects that they manage to achieve actually manage to set a sense of place on a very neutral and empty stage.
(Public service announcement: I recommend that you dress lightly! The light effects involved that support this performance are created from the extended use of 18 flood lights, maybe more. Combine that with a packed theatre and you may be squirming uncomfortably in your seat by the one hour mark.
That being said, an extra kudos to the performers who still managed to keep their cool during such a physically active performance.)
But these are just my thoughts on the play. Add your own comments below and let me know what you agree and disagree with!