23 October 2008

Romeo and Juliet

MIAF 2008
Romeo and Juliet  
OKT and Melbourne International Arts Festival
23 October 2008
Playhouse, The Arts Centre

With so many Romeo and Juliets out there, is it necessary to bring a three and a half hour contemporary Lithuanian production to Melbourne?

OKT was formed by Oskarus Koršunovas in 1999 and was awarded the status of Vilnius City Theatre in 2004. With a determination to find a new way to communicate with audiences, the company aims to "stage classics as if they were modern dramaturgy and modern dramaturgy as if they were classics".

Koršunovas said in the post-show Q and A that we are limited in what we can express with just words, and I really don’t have the words to adequately describe the complexity, depth and perfection of this Romeo and Juliet.

Layered and original, there isn’t a wasted moment in this production filled with the kind of imagery, metaphor and symbolism that prove the unrivalled power of theatre. As the stylised and highly choreographed direction swings from hilarious and crude to delicate and personal, the pure physicality of the performance is astonishing. Words and expression oppose each other, revealing the depths of the story and the hatred and difference that created their world.

The Shakespeare stereotypes are rejected for whole and surprising characters. This is a production where you feel as much for Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris, as you do for the young lovers, and see the tradition, the love and the hate that motivates every action.

This Verona is placed in two opposing but similar family pizza kitchens. This domestic, but public and familiar scene is a source of humour that gradually becomes the frame for the inevitable tragic events. The pain of life takes place in the everyday and familiar, as the bread and flour that sustain life become the symbol of poison and death.

I think the genius of Shakespeare is his complex and intertwining stories, not his iambic pentameter, and seeing a production in another language lets us focus more on story than language. The surtitles are there to be read, but they are an English translation of the Lithuanian translation, so the words become a reference, rather than the focus.

Arts festivals let us see and be inspired by the absolute best. OKS have set the bar pretty high and I now want to see theatre this good from our local companies.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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