Is there anything as all-consuming as first teenage love? We may smile with gooey nostalgia, but remember what that first heart break felt like and how no one understood because no one could love as strongly as you did? Romeo and Juliet is about that kind of teenage love and Zoey Dawson’s all-female version lets us see the story from the heart of a teenage girl.
Dawson creates theatre from an authentic and positive female perspective, and her work continues to remind me of what love was, is and always will be like.
As a teenager, I adored Juliet’s suicide because it proved the power of great love. As an adult (possibly older than her parents), it’s almost impossible to see any romance in such a devastating choice. By telling it from Juliet’s perspective, Dawson and her remarkable and delightfully surprising cast (Brigid Gallacher, Carolyn Butler , Devon Lang Wilton, Laura Maitland, Naomi Rukavina and Nikki Shiels) ensure that it can’t be seen as a social tragedy out of the young lovers’ control.
Gallacher’s Juliet is a 13-year-old who still wears flat shoes and has a pastel bedroom decorated with teddy bears. Her vision of sex is sweet kissing and her idea of romance is so absorbing that she can’t see beyond her boy in his blue flannel shirt (played by the five other members of the cast). Gallacher’s performance creeps into your heart and reminds us that children have the passion to make decisions that can’t be un-made and don’t always the experience to know that it will get better. The stunning final scene takes some liberties with the script, but they are such that they may leave the ghost of Shakespeare wishing he could re-write.
While it highlights the teen suicide, violence and sexualization of children aspects of the story (remember that Juliet is 13 and being forced to marry an older man), it doesn’t neglect the joy and fun with characterisations that I’ve not seen and the best wedding seen ever.
Shakespeare didn’t write his women with the same complexity as his men, so it’s wonderful to see young women rejecting any concepts that woman are virgins/lovers/wives/hags/witches. The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is indeed most excellent and I so hope that Zoey Louise Moonbeam Dawson gets her creative teeth into Shakespeare’s comedies.
More of Anne-Marie’s writing is at sometimesmelbourne.blogspot.com.au