Shakespeare In The Park: The Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet Beautifully Retold

Indulge in Shakespeare’s most famous play about passion and young love at Fort Canning Park.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Oh, pardon me. Got a little carried away.

Non-profit charity, Singapore Repertory Theatre is back with Romeo & Juliet, their 9th Shakespeare in the Park production at Fort Canning Park. This year’s play was also made that much meaningful since it coincides with the 400th death anniversary of The Bard, William Shakespeare himself.

The public can purchase 7.30pm show tickets from 27 April to 22 May. Ticket prices start from S$40 (for information on ticket prices, click here). The leading roles are played by Thomas Pang (Tribes) and Cheryl Tan (Beauty World, Red Riding Hood).

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The play opens with a handcuffed Friar Laurence giving an opening exposition for the story of the star-cross’d lovers. The Montagues and the Capulets, members from the feuding families trade verbal blows in a stage setting that was divided by colour codes blue and red, a concept cleverly thought out by set designer Frank O’Conner. It also bears uncanny resemblance to the Team Captain America and Team Iron Man publicity gimmick from Marvel’s latest installment of The Avengers film.

The characters’ costumes are an assortment of modern and confusing East-meets-West wears as we see characters dressed in modern clothes (hoodies and tank tops) and Chinese robes? Romeo comes into play decked in tee-shirt, denim overalls and a cap, as though telling the audience not to take him – and his age – too seriously (Juliet is 13 years old in the play, but the age of Romeo was never made known by Shakespeare).

The play advances in the plot trivialities, all of which were forgotten the moment Juliet performs her monologue scene after meeting Romeo at the party. Laying down on her balcony, our protagonist makes her case for her falling head-over-heels with Romeo, and cries out for him in an almost-sexual fashion. Her beau hears her, and the two affirmed each other with their words of love and passion – so potent it gave me goosebumps upon goosebumps.

SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet

PHOTO: Courtesy of SRT

Cheryl Tan in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet (4)

PHOTO: Courtesy of SRT

The rest of the play proceeds very much according to Shakespeare’s original literature – with slight variations here and there – although it was really such a delight to see this classic play being performed once again. The brilliance of the play was owed to every actor who so skillfully brought these iconic Shakespeare characters to life. Staying true to the source text amid a modern adaptation, SRT’s latest Shakespeare In The Park production tells audiences that literature classics such as Romeo and Juliet are best enjoyed in the form of a play (like those in Shakespeare’s time).

But I am not buying the ‘greatest love story ever told’ rhetoric namely because Juliet was acknowledged to be 13 year’s old – faithful to the original literature. Age should not be a hindrance to love, but what can a 13-year-old know about love, especially since her love interest Romeo also completely (and conveniently) forgets all about Rosalind, his previous object of infatuation. Plus, it is almost ridiculous to (want to) die for someone you know for barley a week, a point highlighted by Shakespeare himself.

Yet Romeo and Juliet is for me what a real loving relationship should possess; red-hot passion and fervent yearn between lovers. Portraying the most famous lovers in theatre history can be sticky, but Pang (first leading role in a major production) and Tan were simply brilliant to watch on stage with their sweet resonating of each other. Every dialogue and every moment between the two was precious as I trace their every word and step like a hopeless romantic (like Romeo) for that 2 and a half hours.

While Pang and Tan were the stars of the show, the other actors more than performed their roles with gusto. The story may end in tragedy but everything about the play was on point and I really can’t find any fault whatsoever.

Company in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - Romeo & Juliet (2)

PHOTO: Courtesy of SRT

Rumour has it that this year’s staging of Romeo & Juliet could be SRT’s last Shakespeare In The Park. A recent article published by The Straits Times confirms this to be true. What with the increasing production and manpower costs, producing a play of such magnitude in Fort Canning Park is proving to be unsustainable for SRT, especially since the the non-profit organisation relies heavily on ticket sales.

It would be such a pity to take such an enriching cultural activity from Singapore, seeing as more and more Singaporeans are warming up to Shakespearean plays and the arts in the broader prospective. It seems that the reception of this year’s play will decide if there will be another next year. So, make haste! Tell your friends about Shakespeare In The Park: Romeo & Juliet and get them to catch tickets to the play!

Many thanks to SRT for the media invite. Thank you for reading this review and “Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” RW

 

Shakespeare in the Park – Romeo and Juliet

Fort Canning Park

Opens 27 April to 22 May 2016

Brought to you by the company that has captivated thousands each year with its successful productions of The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.

Spread your picnic blanket under the stars and relish in the greatest love story ever told – Romeo & Juliet.

Ticket Pricing: $40 – $85

Web Link: Shakespeare in the Park – Romeo and Juliet

Review: Shakespeare in the Park – The Tempest

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

You know you’re in for a good show when you know it’s a Shakespeare. The first and only play he created out of pure imagination, The Tempest was also Shakespeare’s last play before his retirement. Unanimously declared one of Shakespeare’s greatest works has both scholars and critics alike.

SRT's Shakespeare in th ePark - The Tempest 2015

Set on the remote island, Prospero, the island’s ruling sorcerer and exiled Duke of Milan plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. With the help of his spirit Ariel, he conjures the eponymous Tempest that brings his usurping brother Antonio, the treacherous King Alonso of Naples, Alonso’s good spirited son and Prince Ferdinand and his benefactor Gonzalo to the far-flung island. Chaos ensures, but with it the redemption of the King and the coming together of two young souls.

The Tempest is a highly anticipated annual event in Singapore’s cultural calendar and the Singapore Repertory Theatre’s 9th annual Shakespeare in the Park production. This year’s production features SRT’s grandiose and tallest set ever built in Singapore, and a stellar creative team from around the world.

Daniel Jenkins, Theo Ogundipe and Shane Mardjuki in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - The TempestWith dark skies looming above and the rain threatening to stir up a tempest (Hah!) in the park, I was getting worried that the play would be cancelled. But God forbid, the rain came to a light drizzle and an eventual stop, double rainbows appeared (literally) and the play went underway. Despite having to deal with the light drizzle and a slippery set, our actors delivered their lines perfectly.

All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure; be’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curl’d clouds, to thy strong bidding task
Ariel and all his quality.

Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

I found it amusing yet strangely befitting that the production chose to cast a female (Ann Lek) to play Ariel – There’s only one female character in the Shakespearean play. My Oh My, she breathed life into the character and was simply lovely to watch and listen to. But that’s not to say that the other characters did not shine. I love the playful banter between the trio Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, the romantic dialogue – a Shakespearean classic – between Miranda and Ferdinand, Prospero’s soulful acting and even the prancing spirits!

Simon Robson in SRT's Shakespeare in the Park - The Tempest (5)

And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Prospero’s petition to the audience and, Shakespeare’s metaphoric inference to his final play and retirement from theatre 

There is something magical about watching a play in a park under starry skies which no indoor theatre and its comfy seats can gratify. Watching the play with great pals, a tapas spread and even the sharing of umbrellas with strangers, this sense of intimacy I truly enjoy.

And might I say, with lavish sets by an impressive creative team and seasoned cast, SRT’s Shakespeare in the Park has once again outdone itself to bring to us audiences a world-class outdoor theatre experience at affordable prices. Many thanks to SRT for the media passes. I am looking forward to the next production already!

Performances: Friday 1st May to Sunday 24th May 2015

Prices: From $45 (student and group concessions available)

Venue: Fort Canning Park

Ticketing: SISTIC at 6348 5555 or http://www.sistic.com.sg