QTC’s R+J advertising campaign deemed highly sexualised

The Australian newspaper reported yesterday that the advertising campaign for Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet has been removed from print.

The Advertising Standards Bureau deemed the image to depict a “teenager in a highly sexualised image”.

The advertisement features 26 year old actors Melanie Zanetti and Thomas Larkin, who are set to play the star crossed lovers in QTC’s production from April 21 this year.

The Australian reports: “the ASB found that regardless of her actual age, the actress appears to be “very young – at most a young teenager”.”

Although the photograph has been removed from Queensland Theatre Company’s print advertising, the image is still live on their website.

The second Romeo and Juliet image on QTC's website also featuring Melanie Zanetti and Thomas Larkin

According to the article in The Australian, the image in question was brought to the attention of the Advertising Standards Bureau by a QLD solicitor, Ms Rory Quinn, after she read an advertisement for the production in The Weekend Australian Magazine in early December.

The term “suggestive of pedophilia” was used by Quinn in her complaint.

“As soon as I looked at the ad, it was offensive to me,” she was reported to have said .

The response from QTC was similar to other reactions sourced by AussieTheatre.com today, indicating that the character of Juliet is presumed to be no more than 16, and is studied in schools across the country in this context “with no censorship enforced in terms of Juliet’s intended age”.

QTC have since chosen a different image for their print advertising, which is also featured on their website.

What do you think about this issue? Have your say below.

Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

13 thoughts on “QTC’s R+J advertising campaign deemed highly sexualised

  • Capulet says ‘She hath not seen the change of fourteen years’. Presumably the play should be banned.

  • It says in the play that Juliet “hath not seen the change of fourteen years”, indicating that she is 13 years of age. I think it is refreshing for a company to be making Juliet’s youth obvious. It is a point that no-one quite likes to admit – she was thirteen, young and a bit stupid. In the play they consummate their marriage, and their love/lust is sexualised by Shakespeare – they kiss within 30 seconds of meeting each other, which is not typical of a young romance in Shakespeare’s time. It’s just another layer to the story, and a very interesting one at that. 

  • I guess that solicitor needs to drum up some publicity for herself. Pathetic!

  • She’s TWENTY-SIX years old!  I think that, with this in mind, there is no controversy about a teenager in a sexualised image.  Would there be controversy if this was a drawing or a painting of a thirteen year-old instead of a photo of a twenty-six year-old? 

  • Well it helps to have some controversy in an advertising campaign and a ban is always good. So the advertising has done its job. Blame Shakespeare for being controversial, but let’s not go overboard with reaction. If the girl is 26 yo, there is nothing inappropriate other than in the minds  of the ones who complained or banned it…

  • This is ridiculous. Another example of censorship favouring the loudly-yelling, drum-beating, pitchfork-wielding conservative minority.

  • Forget the actors real-life ages for a sec and let’s adopt the idea that the characters in the pic are the ages they are. History aside, racial tradition aside, do you have a problem with a 17-20 yr old male doing it with a 12-14 yr old female?

    If you do then someone else has been offended by it and because of this ‘sensitive-age’ we live in, it’s reason enough to pull it.

    Personally, I like the jolts you can get from story-telling through live performances, those that force you to confront your fears and allow you to be silent voyeurs – peering into private little worlds like these. I say, let the audience suffer – then tell them after the curtain has closed that the actors are a nice and sweet consenting 26 yrs of age.

    Doesn’t anyone take offence to a story that ends with lies, deceit and a double suicide?


  • I know she is actually 26, but in that image she looks like she would only be 12 and I fully understand why it was pulled.
    Until I read the article I was slightly disturbed myself, even though I know the play.

  • Well I have to agree the photograph in question is questionable.  She certainly looks very young indeed – my first reaction was that she was about 12.  Granted we know that Shakespeare’s Juliet was supposed to be about 14 – but the suggestiveness of the pose (in bed to boot!) – with a male partner who looks twice her age is what’s worrying.

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  • Great move. People are tiring of these companies using sexual exploitation as a means to sell things. I mean really, using paedophilia to sell tickets is appalling. Bring on more bans on those who do this stuff.

    • I know a lot of time has passed but you know this play (from the 16th century!) is about two 13-16 year olds who meet, fall in list and kill themselves, right?


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