Romeo and Juliet Reviews
Jul 24, 2015
A well-deserved standing ovation was given to the cast and crew of Guild Festival Theatre’s opening night performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Greek Stage at the Guild Park.
The classic love story by William Shakespeare is the quintessential story about two young lovers, Romeo and Juliet (Jovan Kocic, Lindsey Middleton), who are determined to be together despite a longstanding feud between their families.
If thoughts of Shakespeare conjure up awful memories of having to read or act out scenes from one of his plays in high school, this production can change your mind.
Well-performed, easily understood and a fluent, beautiful story, this is the way everyone should see Romeo & Juliet. The way the dialogue is spoken, the modern dress and the performances made it completely understandable without taking away from the original story or dialogue.
A masquerade ball at the Capulet’s, the home of Juliet, her mother Lady Capulet (Kaya Bucholc) and her father, referred to as Capulet (Michael McLeister), is promised to be a night good company and entertainment, and where Romeo meets Juliet.
Accompanied by Mercutio (Marcus Bernacci) and Benvolio (Emilio Vieira), the three are amongst their “enemies” but are hidden by their masks, Making Lady Capulet and her husband, Paris (Shawn Parsons), (who is betrothed to Juliet) and Tybalt (Marcus Haccius) none the wiser.
However, amongst the loud music and dancing at the party, there comes a moment where Romeo and Juliet come together and profess their love for one another. It is a touching scene, where everything becomes quiet and their chemistry louder than the music.
As they embrace, Nurse (Laura Meadows) happens upon the forbidden couple, and they vow to meet later that evening. Not wanting to live without each other, they decide to marry in secret and tell their families later. As in many love stories nothing goes as planned, and the two are up against some impossible odds at happiness and some hard choices to make.
Besides being beautifully performed by a cast of amazingly talented actors, a true testament to their skills, as well as director Jamie Robinson, is that the story was the star of the show.
The cast is a great mixture of fresh theatre graduates and seasoned veterans including Christopher Kelk as Friar Laurence, Gordon Gresko as Montague, and McLeister as Capulet. Their professionalism and talent bring an authenticity and realness to this show, and they embody their roles amazingly well.
Bernacci’s portrayal of the outgoing and eccentric Mercutio is amazing. His comedic talent and free-spirited portrayal gives the audience many memorable and funny moments. Scenes with Bernacci, Vieira as Benvolio and Kocic as Romeo are some of the funniest and entertaining ones in the show.
The ladies also shine in this show, most notably Meadows as Juliet’s faithful nurse and Bucholc as Lady Capulet. They give strong performances, especially in scenes with Juliet.
Kocic and Middleton are fantastic as Romeo and Juliet. Their chemistry is believable and these two talented performers are fantastic both individually, and in scenes together.
This show contains talented cast, a beautiful setting and Shakespeare that is accessible to all. The production is dedicated to founding artistic director of Guild Festival Theatre, Sten Erik, who died suddenly this past April. It was his dream to stage Romeo & Juliet, and this cast and crew undoubtedly make him proud.
The Theatre Reader:
July 22, 2015
Guild Festival Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet features a strong cast pouring their hearts into the tragic love story.
Director Jamie Robinson worked diligently to ensure the late Guild FestivalTheatre’s Founder and Artistic Director, Sten Eirik’s, dream of bringing Romeo and Juliet to life on the Greek Stage at Guild Park was beautifully executed.
The play unfolds against a stunning backdrop of intricately carved columns and Corinthian capitals that were saved from the 1966 demolition of the downtown Bank of Toronto to form Guild Park’s Greek Stage in 1981. The luscious greenery, beautiful flowers and expansive surroundings offer a one-of-a-kind environment to enjoy the play. However, having seen a Sunday matinee on the hottest day of the summer I highly recommend seeing an evening show or attending a Sunday matinee when it’s overcast because there is very little protection from the sun.
Romeo & Juliet opens with classical music that abruptly changes to Pink’s song “So What” which signals the modern day setting. The first scene features a fight between enemy members of the Montague family wearing blue and the Capulet family wearing red. I thought this was an excellent way of differentiating the families, but was disappointed it did not continue throughout the play because it would have furthered the separation between the feuding families.
Both the costumes and set were fairly simplistic. The costumes featured the younger male characters in jeans and t-shirts, while the older male characters wore dress shirts and pants. Juliet (Lindsey Middleton) wore light coloured dresses to emphasize her youth and Lady Capulet (Kaya Bucholc) wore dark coloured dresses to cast a serious tone onto her character. The set featured two benches, tables, and chairs in a dark wood finish to contrast the light marble finish of the backdrop. Anything more would have crowded the set and taken away from the natural beauty of the stage.
The cast was predominantly made up of recent graduates from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College Theatre programs, as well as the York University Acting Conservatory. The young cast members were very talented and delivered emotional performances. I was intrigued and confused by the choice to have such a large age gap between some of the cast members. Lady Capulet and Juliet looked very close in age, while Capulet (Michael McLeister) looked like their grandfather. I feel that using hair and makeup to age Lady Capulet would have made the age difference less noticeable.
I was thoroughly impressed by Friar Laurence (Christopher Kelk) who displayed the perfect balance of care for the young lovers and turmoil over their tragic fate. Both Romeo (Jovan Kocic) and Juliet captured the essence of young love and teenage defiance. Juliet’s Nurse (Laura Meadows) gave an exceptional performance that encapsulated the comic relief, love, and protection Shakespeare’s Nurse represents.
REVIEW: SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO & JULIET (GUILD FESTIVAL THEATRE)
Guild Festival Theatre presents a contemporaryRomeo & Juliet in Toronto’s Guild Park
Guild Festival Theatre’s contemporary production of Romeo & Julietat the Greek Stage in Guild Park has a slew of commendable performances and impressively high production values, especially considering that it’s set outdoors.
The evening began with an introduction to the history of Guild Parkand the sad news that the founder of Guild Festival Theatre recently passed away. Some of the long-time patrons may have heard the spiel already, but my companion and I really appreciated this touch as this was the first time we had visited the park.
Unfortunately, both of us also agreed that the beginning of the production lacked energy and some of the performances felt strangely stiff. There were still a few early stand-outs however: Emilio Vieira was utterly compelling as the jovial Benvolio and Gordon Gresko ably provided comic relief as the servant Peter.
Despite a slightly lackluster start, the entire production picked up as soon as Jovan Kocic’s Romeo met Lindsey Middleton’s Juliet; their off-the-charts chemistry seemed to rejuvenate every preceding scene. Kocic and Middleton’s performances in the famous balcony scene had the perfect blend of youthful passion and awkwardness, and it was hard to take your eyes off them whenever they were onstage together.
The relationships within the Capulet and Montague familial groups also became more and more convincing as the production continued. There was great camaraderie and humour between Middleton’s Juliet and Laura Meadows’s Nurse, and the friendship of the charming Montague boys was appealingly played by Vieira, Kocic, and Marcus Bernacci as Mercutio.
While this is not the first time that Romeo and Juliet had been set in contemporary times, I thought there were many directorial choices that made this version especially successful. Kocic and Middleton not only looked the part, but director Jamie Robinson smartly drew inspiration from familiar modern-day teenage archetypes for characterization (Romeo is re-envisioned as an “emo hipster,” complete with hangover-hiding sunglasses). Even though the speech was written centuries ago, almost every character in the play still felt like someone you could find walking down a street in Toronto.
Additionally, many of the hidden comedic wordplays were nicely highlighted by Robinson through a few exaggerated gestures and the large but beautiful space was always creatively used.
Although some of the fighting choreography felt a little repetitive to me and the musical mash-ups could’ve been better mixed, Amanda Wong also did some great work with colour-coordinated costuming and Amanda Gougeon’s lighting design effectively complimented the scenic mood, especially during the emotional second act. But best of all, despite the white noise from insects and wind, I could still hear almost every word.
Finally, I must warn the Shakespeare enthusiasts that this production is condensed. While there were a few cuts that seemed iffy to my companion, most of the plot was preserved.