It’s the weekend. You are looking through the entertainment guide for something to do. You check out the theatre section. There’s not much that takes your fancy. And then you spot something. A company, the Impulse Theatre Company, is doing the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet but they’re giving it a contemporary setting, resetting it at the time of the Cronulla Race Riots that took place in December 2005. The show’s promo line,-‘Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Cronulla’….It sounds interesting…Let’s do it!
Clever concepts don’t always convert. This is the case with this re-imagining of the Bard’s classic in the setting of the Cronulla riots. It may well have been a good pitch but it doesn’t make for a great fit.
The Cronulla riots were the result of tension, over a long period of time, between local residents and people from a Middle Eastern background, mainly from the Western suburbs, who were coming into the area on weekends. The riots had nothing to do with warring families nor was the racial conflict the breeding ground of a romance for the ages….
Thankfully, Wallace only gives this angle to the narrative a very light brush! He starts strongly with the replaying of old video footage from the riots, and then the staging of the Cronulla beach scene where a local Aussie woman is sunbaking and being harassed by Lebanese guys however by play’s end titles flash across the back wall saying that we are now in Mantua. From Cronulla to Mantua in a flash….
All is not lost! Impulse’s production proves to still be worth catching, as the result of a very committed cast and some good really good performances, particularly from the supporting cast. Bryan Hajduczoh as Mercutio and Alex Bryan-Smith as Tybalt impress as the impulsive foes. Lisa Peers, the real-life mother of Rainee Lyleson who played Juliet, gave, for me, the performance of the night, playing Juliet’s Nurse as well as Lady Montague (quite indiscernible in this role). Alan Faulkner impressed in multiple roles as well as delivering Shakespeare’s wonderful prologue.
Impulse Theatre Company’s production of ROMEO AND JULIET opened at the King Street Theatre, corner King Street and Bray Street, Newtown on Wednesday 31 July and plays until Saturday 24 August, 2013.