Performances excellent in great setting

Romeo and Juliet
Woodhaugh Gardens
Friday, January 31

REVIEWED BY BARBARA FRAME 

The Woodhaugh Gardens’ trees and shrubs are a natural backdrop and all the scenery you really need, the descending sun provides the lighting, birdsong makes a great soundtrack and a summer evening’s pleasant breezes produce good ventilation.

The stage is set for a production of Shakespeare’s play about family feuding, impetuous youth and doomed romance.

Only a rope separates the audience from the designated stage, and the actors come and go from all angles, sometimes weaving their way through a picnicking audience seated on rugs or folding chairs.

The actors wear modern dress, and their accoutrements link the story to Aotearoa as much as to 16th century Verona.

Performances are very good. Nick Tipa, as Romeo, energetically demonstrates his character’s charm and intensity.

Emily McKenzie makes a fine Juliet - a teenager who still retains childhood bounce, thrust tragically into an adult world of love and intrigue. Working together, the two convey a powerful sense of the pair’s instant, overwhelming passion.

Also noteworthy is Phil Grieve as Friar Laurence, his commanding presence and booming voice bringing authority to every scene he appears in.

Julie Edwards, as Juliet’s nurse, brings her strong comic ability, but can also add poignancy where required.

As Tybalt, Juliet’s belligerent cousin, Tomuri Spicer is just the sort of neighbourhood bully we all recognise.

On Friday night there were a few brief distractions, mostly in the form of noisy vehicles on George St or the Northern Motorway, but they did not significantly detract.

The 200-odd audience was engrossed for almost two hours, and warmly appreciative of the concluding waiata.

Director Kim Morgan and her team have been supported by the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Community Trust, and are to be congratulated for bringing summer Shakespeare to Dunedin after an absence of several years.

I hope this production can start a new tradition.

Performances are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the next two weeks - and are free.

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