Grotowski-oriented group, Impulse Theatre, had their debut of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ at the King St Theatre this week. It’s a mixed bag and continues a trend of community-based theatre at this venue that doesn’t quite succeed in producing fully developed work. Yet, there are some solid moments in this show that carry it to the end.
Director/Producer Stephen Wallace has chosen the 2005 Cronulla race riots as the backdrop or pretext to Shakespeare’s well-known play. Although this idea sets the scene for the two famous families and establishes time and place, it’s probably under-utilised in the overall vision of the play. It did allow for a few opportunities to play with cultural differences, such as the dancing in the party scene but it rarely pushed far enough in showing differences in characterisation or action. Perhaps there’s a fear of stereotyping. Whilst the ‘Lebanese’ Capulets were more obvious and developed, the Aussie Montagues didn’t have the same complexity and seemed to be only Aussie in costume. More exploration of choices here could have been interesting.
In regards to the performances, the stand out performer by a mile was Alan Faulkner, who took small roles such as the Prince or Peter and delivered the biggest performances of the evening. His mastery of the language was also evident and impressive.
Apart from Faulkner, it was the women of the cast who made a fist of keeping the show alive. Special mention goes to Rainee Lyleson’s Juliet. Dan Webber’s Romeo was hot and cold in characterisation but when he had the strength of Lyleson to bounce off, he was better for it. At least the chemistry and connection between them was believable.
The language was a hurdle too hard to ‘o’erleap’ for most and there was also some very dodgy and unfortunately amusing fight choreography executed on stage. Belief was mixed and there were a number of eye-rolling moments. Thankfully any sighing was muffled by the noise made by the obsessive crisps eater in the second row. And then sometimes they had moments that lifted the play in intensity and engagement and made the questionable performances or choices more forgivable.
Allan Walpole’s set allowed for a variety of ways to use the stage, although sometimes, as evidenced by the use of the balcony, the set was used far too literally and a little more experimentation wouldn’t have gone astray.
But in all of that, the cast were committed and there’s lots of energy and love for the play within it. It doesn’t always transfer out but no doubt its audience will find a few moments of redemption in the viewing of the play and its passionate delivery.