Who doesn’t love Romeo and Juliet? We all have our favourite portrayals of the star-crossed young lovers – Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes perhaps, or if you’re my age, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. But since there’s nothing like a live performance, I was excited to attend Opening Night as Bard on the Beach launched its 27th year in Vancouver. I wasn’t disappointed. But I was surprised at the performances that thrilled me the most. But more of that in a minute.
First, here’s a quick summary of this timeless story.
For reasons that have been forgotten long ago, the Capulets (Ashley Wright, Dawn Petten) and the Montagues (David Marr, Amber Lewis), have kept up a long-standing feud for generations. Lord Capulet learns that Count Paris (Shaker Paleja) is eager to wed his daughter Juliet and hosts a masked ball to launch the courtship. Through a twist of fate, Lord Montague’s son Romeo and his friends Benvolio and Mercutio hear of the party and attend in disguise. They are spotted by Juliet’s hot-headed cousin Tybalt, but Lord Capulet forbids anyone to fight at this important party.
Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love before each discovers the other’s identity and in spite of the bitter family feud, they are married secretly by Friar Laurence (Scott Bellis).
Later, Tybalt encounters Romeo and challenges him to a duel. When Romeo refuses to fight, Mercutio fights Tybalt instead and is fatally wounded. Enraged at his friend’s death, Romeo slays Tybalt and is banished. Juliet, whose family is still urging her to marry Paris, is offered a potion by Friar Laurence to make her appear dead so she can avoid marriage to Paris and be rescued and spirited away by Romeo. But sadly, nothing but tragedy awaits the young couple and their families.
Overall, it’s a great story, ably directed by award-winner Kim Collier, and full of action, wit and heartbreak. I especially loved the performances of Andrew McNee as big, bluff Mercutio, Anton Lipovetsky as the fiery Tybalt, and Jennifer Lines as Nurse.
As Juliet, Hailey Gillis is truly a girl in love – luminescent, full of joy, hope, and a little fear. Andrew Chown’s Romeo didn’t connect with me emotionally, although his performance was admirable. I just didn’t feel as much of a spark between the two of them as I expected there to be – at least not yet. It would be interesting to see a performance later on in the season to compare their chemistry.
Romeo and Juliet runs to September 23 on the BMO Mainstage.Ticket prices for 2016 include all applicable fees and taxes and begin at $20 for every regular performance. Early booking is recommended for best seat selection. Book tickets through the Bard Box Office at 604-739-0559, (toll free) 1-877-739-0559, or order online through the Bard website.
One last word of advice – bring a warm sweater or jacket.