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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Tepid Romeo and Juliet just passes muster

By Bradley Winterton

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HCMC – The touring Romeo and Juliet at the Saigon Conservatory (an ADG Europe production) had costumes but a bare stage. The balcony scene had Juliet standing behind a cloth, for example, leading to the observation that plaintive scenes tended to succeed while comic ones had their work cut out.

Romeo and Juliet, after all, is a tragedy in that the two lovers both die, but it is not tragic in its general atmosphere.

There was Elizabethan-style music, much use of masks, and a fair amount of dancing. Death was an ever-present if silent figure. I have to say, though, that I could not catch all the words despite sitting in the very front row.

Mercutio is a gift to any actor, and Adrian de Costa certainly seized all the opportunities presented to him. His long Queen Mab speech, a Shakespearean masterpiece, was mostly cut, however, as being too abstruse for a bi-lingual audience. His death (“a plague on both your houses”) was effective, as was that of Tybalt.

Nina Schlautmann was a persuasive Juliet, while Leo Benedict as Romeo if anything held the whole production together. Rian Wunderlin certainly looked the part as Friar Lawrence, while the Nurse looked rather young for the role. Glyn Connop as Capulet was always a strong presence.

Romeo and Juliet was probably Shakespeare’s greatest play of his early period, but this pared-down production gave only a generalized impression of this. Anyone who remembers Baz Luhrmann’s superb 1996 film will have no need to regret missing this version.

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