Monday, 23 August, 2010

Romeo and Juliet, The Sequel

London Festival Fringe – 5-12, 20, 22, 25, 27 Aug 2010 – Rose Theatre Bankside, 19:30

The play is set in the fictional world of Purgatory.  Romeo and Juliet have died and, as punishment, have been thrust into this place ruled by a wicked Marquis de Sade.  He rules this world like his own private brothel and takes pleasure in sexually humiliating his occupants or using them to satisfy his own desires.

To set the scene for this alternate reality, the stage is divided into three areas.  There is a raised platform with an engraved wooden chair on it.  Artificial roses are strewn along the front with feathers on the front facing side.  The rest of the space is divided in two by tube lights.  There is a tree stump in each area with alternative halves of a red heart on the top of them.   A large projection of an illustration is on the far wall, explaining what the stage represents.  It depicts a man up high on a balcony overlooking two figures in two halves of a stone room, separated by a wall.  He can see them but they cannot see each other.

A disorientated Juliet ponders about Romeo’s whereabouts on one side of the wall.  On the other, Cupid ponders the whereabouts of his love Psyche, whilst maintaining his collection of Spanish flies.  The Marquis de Sade oversees all this and toys with his pawns in this giant game of chess.  He insults them, torments them and is generally quite immoral and sexual in his behaviour towards them.  Romeo and Psyche enter the picture also and, similarly disorientated and confused, try to figure out their current situations.  It is then up to Juliet and Cupid to make sense of it all and decide whether they will try to win back their lovers or let the inevitable happen and let the Marquis do what he will with them all.

Kitty Chapman plays Psyche as a vacant and nonchalant woman who lives for the flesh.  She cares not about Cupid, cares a little about Romeo and cares a lot about herself.

Adam Elliott is a fine Cupid.  He is barefoot and wears pair of torn cream knee length trousers.  He is bruised, cut and has two bloody stumps up high on his shoulders, like two wings have been wrenched off.  He portrays the tormented mind well.  Throughout the play the confusion and struggle are played out through his facial expressions, actions and eloquent speech.  He is animated and humorous and able to gain empathy also.

Lucy Grainger is a Juliet with a child’s innocence but quickly matures due to her situation.  She wears a black dress with a metal cross around her neck and is barefooted.  She has a sweet voice, demonstrated near the end in a wedding song.

Adam Hall is a dashing Romeo.  Wearing an embroidered black shirt and black trousers, he strides in, head held high and holds himself well on stage.  He is not in the play that often but when he is, he makes it count.  He is charming and likeable and makes Romeo out to be a kind-hearted man who just wants to love and be loved.

Graham Hornsby is believable as a character plucked from the eighteenth century.  He wears a white shirt with puffed sleeves, cream knee length breeches, red tights and black shoes with a large buckle on them.  He maintains a skilful French accent throughout and it is quite humorous the ways he uses it to say various words to give them that extra edge.  He relishes in his role, is very sexual and has the look of a hungry lover about him.

Tracy Keeling writes in rhyme for the majority of the play and this positively adds to the atmosphere.  It is clever and humorous at times.  The story of Romeo and Juliet beyond death is an interesting one to consider and she has considered it with porn as the main ingredient.  She directs the cast well.  Cupid movements are the most effective as he uses a lot of the stage and has different levels and jumps up onto the fence behind them all at one point.  There are nerving moments however when the actors have to climb up onto the platform and if they are not careful, could end up plummeting to the excavation site below.

Jake Spicer’s illustration depicts the fantasy world cleverly and is essential to aid the play.  At the end, it turns into a disturbing picture of the same scene with Juliet dead and evil with leaves scattered all around her, like a scene from an old horror film.

Pawnography is what it is.  It is a blue version of the star-crossed lovers’ story, set in purgatory with a similar tragic and sad ending.  It could have been worthy of many more compliments but after a scene of a fourteen year old Juliet being sexually abused by the Marquis, there was simply no further merit to speak of.  A play best left on the fiction shelf.

Cast credits: Kitty Chapman – Psyche.  Adam Elliott – Cupid.  Lucy Grainger – Juliet.  Adam Hall – Romeo.  Graham Hornsby – The Marquis de Sade.

Company Credits: Writer/Director – Tracy Keeling.  Assistant Director – Belinda Wylie.  Fine Artist – Jake Spicer.  Musician – Sorana Santos (Lyrebird).  Operations Manager, The Rose Theatre Trust – Pepe Pryke

(c) Chantal Pierre-Packer 2010

reviewed Wednesday 11 August 2010

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