Shakespeare for Kids
Recycled Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
11:00am, Fri 8 Mar 2013
Without performing any actual statistical analysis, I think the two most common phrases on this blog are “I love dance, but I know nothing about it” and “I love me some Shakespeare”. But whilst I was well served in the dance department in 2013, there were slim pickings when it came to The Bard’s work… which resulted in me and my hangover scurrying out to Holden Street for a much-too-early session of Romeo and Juliet, in the only session that could still fit into my Schedule (Hamlet, The Tempest, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were also performed by the company in various other times).
And whilst I was happy enough, my hangover was super grumpy when, after a lazy twenty of us were seated in The Studio, Holden Street staff announced that the show would be delayed to allow time for a school group to arrive. A school group of seventy-six, held up by a traffic jam on Manton St.
After the inevitable frustration and rudeness involved with two busloads of school kids seating themselves – screeching teachers ahoy – the members of Recycled Theatre eased into their all-ages adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The cast were clad in plain white, and each played multiple characters, identified by the addition of colourful props – capes, shawls, scarfs, and hats being the easiest markers. And, whilst some of the language is thinned out and modernised to be digestible by the younger audience, the plot largely remained intact… until we get to the violence at the end of the play, which again was lightened a little.
Having said that, the production – perhaps necessarily – spends a lot more time on the smaller, sillier scenes, steering focus away from all but the most significant (and well known) of the more character-driven conversations; that seemed to be a pretty good decision, with the majority of the kids’ attention being held by the use of slapstick and stage tomfoolery.
In fact, the worst elements of audience behaviour – always a concern when one attends school day matinées – were from adults; front-row parents attempting to record the entire play on their fucking iPad. Not only did the audience-facing screen become an immense annoyance, but they started walking in front of the seating bank to get better shots! Thankfully, the Narrator of the show gently put her in her place… but seriously, people who bring an iPad out in the middle of a theatre piece should be drawn and quartered – that may seem extreme, but I’m sure The Bard would approve.
But I digress: this rendition of Romeo and Juliet was entertaining (in a twee kind of way), true to the premise of the work, and – hopefully – a not-off-putting introduction to Shakespeare for a new generation. Would I do another Shakespeare for Kids show, though? Maybe not – but, if forced to choose between this and no-Bard-at-all, this would win hands-down.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 8, 2013