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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 8. August 3, 1959

Review — Thespians and Romeo


Thespians and Romeo

Perhaps one sees this play with too many pre-conceived ideas about its interpretation. The words are already singing in the ear before the curtain opens; the universality of the story meets with particulars in one's own experience of the adolescent love situation.

Whether it is one or all of these—the story of Romeo and Juliet is vivid with associations for most people.

"Blood and guts" are expected, verse projected with feeling, each scene capturing a vital mood, contrast of tenderness and hatred. The Montagues and Capulets really do hate each other, and if this is not made clear, the story of young love is doomed to end in a vacuum as well as a vault.

My main arguments are with the production. Crowds hasten against unpainted 4ft. by 2fts. The cast move on and off in line. Garish lighting effects substitute for colour in the spoken verse—not that we heard very much spoken verse. A set looked more like a wired rose-garden than a battleground for conflicting passions.

The leads had my sympathy. They were not given much chance. Barry Hill was effective as Romeo, he looked the part. His gestures, when not overdone, were effective. His voice got the mood across, though without much variety.

Juliet, Diana Priestley, spoke beautifully and managed to catch moments of true poetry. For me they were the highlights of the whole evening.

Full marks to the nurse, for a competent and sustained performance, and to Mercutio for the projection of true comic feeling, though not at the audience, please! I got the feeling that he was dying with a twinkle in his eye.

Tybalt was villainous enough, but his performance was ruined by a lengthy "knees shake" in his death scene. Most of the death scene were over-wrought with effect, which was no substitute for passion.

As for most of the other characters, including even an apothecary, I still have not sorted them out, and I cannot blame myself entirely.

The overall impression was of confusion and often embarrassment—Romeo appearing legs first down the balcony. Touches like that do not help, and often leave the actor fighting to keep in part.

The production lacked unity, fire and forceful interpretation.

It kept loyally to the text, perhaps at the risk of offence, but not to the feeling of the original. A producer has to take risks and feel strongly about his play if he is going to bring off a production as big as "Romeo and Juliet."

The costumes were very good.