Review: >< R&J - La Boite Indie and the Breadbeard Collective with the support of QPAC at The Roundhouse
Image: Al Caeiro
I was pretty suspicious about and very prepared to dislike this show before I even got there. Its self-conscious title (requiring a sub-title to explain itself) flashed a pretension alert. It was a great relief to be as pleasantly disarmed and delightfully entertained as I was across the 100 or so minutes of The Breadbeard Collective‘s latest offering and final production from La Boite’s Indie series for 2014.
Inhabiting the liminal space between an illustrated lecture on the methods of Post Modernism and a chilled-out theatre laboratory ><R&J directed strongly and inimitably by Lucas Stibbard, takes Shakespeare’s play and wittily deconstructs it. The experiment: to see (as his foot-noted Director’s Notes have it) whether or not a new theatrical creation can assist in saving the star-crossed lovers from themselves, or whether audiences and performers have a need for the particular narrative that is baked into this story. Narrative wins – yes, it is inevitable. Shakespeare trumps again – how can he not – but then so does the production whose content is gloriously geeky and methods deliciously cheeky. But it has a surprise up its sleeve, a sting in its tail – what you will – and is all the more affecting and dramatically satisfying for it.
I’m referring here to the deaths of Romeo and his Juliet which are horrific in their naturalistic presentation. After all the madcap interventions, role and gender swaps, sweet sexiness and sweaty physicality, the ending comes at you like a bucket of iced-water. The tragedy is potent and gut-wrenching.
The Roundhouse is in Studio Mode for this production which means the playing space is ‘front on’ and more intimate than usual. I loved the relaxed, strong physicality of the 10 performers, the way they inhabit the stage as actor and as character slipping freely from role to role. Some of the speaking needs more work – rushed, flat lines in text-dense passages and underpowered throw-away lines are easily fixed with attention or some intensive coaching. I want to see more of their work and hope ><R&J gets another outing after this season at La Boite Indie.
The Breadbeard … is new to me although I have heard of them and seen some of their current members at work elsewhere. They play together in the best sense of the word – loosely and freely, sparking off and supporting one another like a group of old friends. At times you feel the action has broken out into free association and improv – maybe it has – but the laid-back atmosphere belies a discipline that surely underpins the focus, pace and beautifully-crafted structure of this intelligent and sophisticated new work. Hats off to Mr Stibbard and to his team – onstage and off.
PS Shakespeare & (ampersand) physical theatre together! #Queenslander.
THE BREADBEARD COLLECTIVE
Creative Producer Matthew Higgins; Associate Producer Kat O’Sullivan; Artistic Associate Sarah Winter; Designer Yvette Turnbull
Cameron Clark, Luke Constable, Julia Forsberg, Essie O’Shaughnessy, Steph Stainlay, David Stewart, Steph Tandy, Brett Walsh, Reuben Witsenhuysen, Bianca Zouppas
Music Arrangements by Luke Constable, Matthew Higgins and Reuben Witsenhuysen
Audio Mixed by Brett Walsh
Animation by Luke Constable
Original Dance Choreography by Neridah Waters
Original Fight Choreography by Niki-J Price
Production and Stage Manager Matthew Seery
Technical Coordinator, Lighting Designer, Set Builder Joel Redding