Review: Shakespeare in the Park – Romeo & Juliet
Beautiful and brutal.
Dissonant guitar riffs layered over hymnal progressions. An intimidating, brutalist, set design colour the audience’s experience for the evening. This year’s Shakespeare in the Park sets itself in a dystopian Verona, proudly divided by a large crack that runs up several flights of stairs on stage. The angular construction violently bisected, with stained glass windows and scaffolds that evoke a skyline, tell a story all its own before the actors even take to stage.
Two households both alike in dignity: if there is an interpretation of the Capulets that will leave an impression, you will find it here at Fort Canning Park. Remesh Panicker commands the stage with a power that exudes from a man of his station; his volatility mirrored in the excesses of his daughter, Juliet, played deftly by Cheryl Tan. Lady Capulet, brought to life by Victoria Mintey; is quietly confident, but no less imposing than the rest of her family. Jo
Kukathas artfully balances the nuance between tragedy and comedy of the Nurse.
The Montagues deserve equal merit for the Verona we are invited into. David Gooderson’s Montague, is a man grown weary of the violence surrounding him. Romeo, portrayed here as a believably flawed character given to the indulgence of his emotions by Thomas Pang. The explosively offkilter Mercutio, here realized with much relish by Shane Mardjuki, is rounded out by Benvolio and Valentine, played by Benjamin Chow and Riccardo Cartelli.
You’d have to wonder how Romeo’s entourage hadn’t already gotten themselves killed if not for these two.
Daniel Slater’s direction for this production steers our young lovers with blind idealism: our Romeo waxes lyrical of his affection; whilst Juliet, electric and unabashed, is no innocent simply being swept up by the attention of a man. We are presented with an independent woman, more than capable of taking charge of her own destiny.
Tybalt, played with adequate menace by Mitchell Lagos, and Mercutio’s showdown in the second half is energetic, if not slightly diffused, and Tybalt’s death is fittingly dramatic. As a prominent example of the relationships between characters, this year’s Shakespeare in the Park does an electric job of conveying the living connections that lay strewn under a strife spanning generations.
That electricity finds itself embedded in the stage as well. Neon hues clearly showing which side of Verona we find ourselves in as the action moves forward, courtesy of Gabriel Chan. And the costumes, neatly blending modernity and a SoutheastAsian aesthetic, at the skillful hands of Moe Kasim allow the characters to convey much about themselves by simply showing up.
All in all, this year’s Shakespeare in the Park, fittingly opened by Daniel Jenkin’s masterful portrayal of Father Laurence. A man who seeks to do what is right in his own eyes, his machinations allows the play to be a masterclass in passion; and a timely call to leave behind the cynicism of the everyday, if only for the few hours you’ll spend watching people stab each other while you are sipping wine.