Guild Festival Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet features a strong cast pouring their hearts into the tragic love story.
Director Jamie Robinson worked diligently to ensure the late Guild Festival Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director, Sten Eirik’s, dream of bringing Romeo and Juliet to life on the Greek Stage at Guild Park was beautifully executed.
The play unfolds against a stunning backdrop of intricately carved columns and Corinthian capitals that were saved from the 1966 demolition of the downtown Bank of Toronto to form Guild Park’s Greek Stage in 1981. The luscious greenery, beautiful flowers and expansive surroundings offer a one-of-a-kind environment to enjoy the play. However, having seen a Sunday matinee on the hottest day of the summer I highly recommend seeing an evening show or attending a Sunday matinee when it’s overcast because there is very little protection from the sun.
Romeo & Juliet opens with classical music that abruptly changes to Pink’s song “So What” which signals the modern day setting. The first scene features a fight between enemy members of the Montague family wearing blue and the Capulet family wearing red. I thought this was an excellent way of differentiating the families, but was disappointed it did not continue throughout the play because it would have furthered the separation between the feuding families.
Both the costumes and set were fairly simplistic. The costumes featured the younger male characters in jeans and t-shirts, while the older male characters wore dress shirts and pants. Juliet (Lindsey Middleton) wore light coloured dresses to emphasize her youth and Lady Capulet (Kaya Bucholc) wore dark coloured dresses to cast a serious tone onto her character. The set featured two benches, tables, and chairs in a dark wood finish to contrast the light marble finish of the backdrop. Anything more would have crowded the set and taken away from the natural beauty of the stage.
The cast was predominantly made up of recent graduates from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College Theatre programs, as well as the York University Acting Conservatory. The young cast members were very talented and delivered emotional performances. I was intrigued and confused by the choice to have such a large age gap between some of the cast members. Lady Capulet and Juliet looked very close in age, while Capulet (Michael McLeister) looked like their grandfather. I feel that using hair and makeup to age Lady Capulet would have made the age difference less noticeable.
I was thoroughly impressed by Friar Laurence (Christopher Kelk) who displayed the perfect balance of care for the young lovers and turmoil over their tragic fate. Both Romeo (Jovan Kocic) and Juliet captured the essence of young love and teenage defiance. Juliet’s Nurse (Laura Meadows) gave an exceptional performance that encapsulated the comic relief, love, and protection Shakespeare’s Nurse represents.
Romeo & Juliet is playing on the Greek Stage at Guild Park until August 9. Tickets can be purchased online at www.guildfestivaltheatre.ca.