Romeo and Juliet performed in Neely Auditorium


Justine Hong

Last Saturday, Actors from the London Stage, a program based in the University of Notre Dame, came to Neely Auditorium to perform Romeo and Juliet. Aware that the performance would only feature five Shakespearean British actors, I expected an unconventional rendition, but nevertheless I was not quite prepared for what lay ahead.

For one, the introductions were chaotic and swift. Upon tying an apron to her waist, one actress would introduce herself as Juliet’s nurse, but in a quick movement she’d tie the cloth around her neck, transforming it into a cape and becoming Paris. Furthermore, Romeo and Juliet each had two other roles, and the remaining three actors each took on five different roles. Initially, I was apprehensive about this arrangement, but the phenomenal acting slowly eclipsed any dearth in number of performers.

The play began boisterous and comic. Juliet’s nurse quickly became an audience favorite with her frequent jokes, senseless anecdotes, and grandmotherly nature. Mercutio’s innuendos were displayed refreshingly, without reserve. Most hilarious of all, however, was Romeo himself. When Juliet, thinking she was alone, uttered, “Take all myself,” Romeo suddenly jumped up and shouted “Yes!” arms far above his head. The rendition of Romeo as desperate but sweet contrasted greatly with that of Juliet, who seemed remarkably sensible.

Initially, I was uncertain how this bizarrely comic mood would fit the play’s tragic end, but the actors expertly transitioned from humorous to solemn. At times Mercutio would interrupt his own rambling monologue with a short but portentous remark, accompanied by a brief silence of equal gravity. He delivered “You will find me a grave man” with a weak smile, a faint and bitter echo of his previous wild jokes. And eventually, the characters’ rambling ceased altogether, and the monologues waxed impassioned, furious, mournful. As with any rendition of Romeo and Juliet, I’d stare incredulously at the two protagonists, agreeing with every sensible word spoken by the adults, wondering how the lovers could be so blind to reason . . . but then I’d hear their indignant soliloquies, and reason would melt, replaced by mournful empathy for their love. All in all, Romeo and Juliet by Actors from the London Stage was a unique, compact rendition, delivered competently by five refreshing actors.

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