Kids kill kids in La Boite’s 21st century reimagining of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

brisbane la boite theatre company qut romeo and juliet
Photo: Dylan Evans/La Boite Theatre Company

Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company in partnership with QUT, presents a 21st century re-imagining of Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet.

The production takes no prisoners in this tale of star-crossed lovers, under the gripping direction of Artistic Director Todd MacDonald.

Directed by Todd MacDonald and edited with Lucas Stibbard the re-imagining of the enduring tragedy about young lovers and the feuding Montague and Capulet families promises to pack a punch.

Two families at war, two teenagers in love, a three-day affair that ends in six deaths.

Did Romeo and Juliet love too much, too hard, too soon? Did their union even stand a chance? And why do we still care?

QN Magazine spoke to Todd MacDonald during rehearsals for the play.

“We’ve taken a classic play and looked at it through a contemporary lens. The result is a production that is physical, visceral, relevant and accessible,” Todd said.

“When La Boite approaches a classic work, we look at how we can make it relevant and relatable. How we can get it to truly vibrate and resonate with a contemporary audience?

“I would argue that of all Shakespeare’s works, Romeo and Juliet is the one that has dated the least.

“There a good reason it’s the most performed Shakespeare, the universal themes of love and passion always resonate.

“The fast-moving nature of the work resonates for everyone who has ever fallen in love (or wanted to).

“We have all experienced this and for sure this takes it to an extreme, but that’s theatre and that’s why it’s so compelling as a story.”

Why are we so fascinated by the combination of love and tragedy in Romeo and Juliet?

“I think it rings true because life is not black and white — it’s a messy and sometimes terrible blur of emotions and intellect.

“Humans are grey and when we see and feel this in the characters on stage it resonates.”

The Montague and Capulet families seem to grab any excuse for a street fight. How did you go about staging and choreographing those physical interactions?

“We’ve been training with the young cast for about two months coming into rehearsal.

“Although not costuming in period style, we are approaching with the complete and open understanding that this is a period story that has contemporary resonance.

“We use contemporary music and dress but, in the fights, we are using swords!

“Every day the whole cast train together for an hour.

“It’s a big cast of 10 actors and there are a number of whole of ensemble sections like the party and fight scenes which have been hugely enjoyable to create with Nigel Poulton — one of Australia’s best fight and movement directors.”

Mercutio is sometimes suggested to harbour homoerotic longings for Romeo? Do you see anything of that in the script?

“No, well… not really. There’s also chat about Benvolio and Romeo — in our production Benvolio and Tybalt are played by women… so the dynamic is very interesting indeed!”

Romeo and Juliet continues La Boite Theatre Company’s ongoing partnership with QUT and will see an ensemble of experienced artists share the Brisbane stage with some of Brisbane’s best emerging actors including Darcy Gooda as Juliet and Jackson Bannister as her Romeo.

The senior cast of Romeo and Juliet led by renowned Queensland actors Eugene Gilfedder, Colin Smith, Kerith Atkinson and Bridget Boyle who recently won several Matilda Awards, including the coveted Gold Matilda with her theatre company, debase Production.

“I’m really excited to work with this fresh crop of incredible young actors from QUT,” Todd MacDonald said.

“The talented cast of established actors is also a huge drawcard.

“Eugene is an absolute stalwart of Brisbane theatre and we are totally thrilled to have this legend of the stage treading our boards again.

“Kerith also has a wealth of experience on screen and stage and Bridget has just shared in four Matilda Awards.

“Colin, too, is no stranger to success, picking up a Matilda Award for his work in An Octoroon in 2017.”

Romeo and Juliet is at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre from May 25 to June 15. 

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