Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers on stage in March 2022
Mill Productions presented Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on stage in dlr Mill Theatre for schools from 3-16 March 2022, with a public evening performance on 10 March.
Two young people free-falling into a love beyond their wildest dreams, bear the weight of a bitter family feud. They sacrifice everything for love in a story that enthrals as much now as it ever did.
Romeo and Juliet is set in Italy in the city of Verona. In Shakespeare’s time, the city was no stranger to violence. The fight which begins the play is part of an overarching feud between two wealthy families: the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo and Juliet presents a fascinating snapshot of English life in the late 16th century, especially about love and marriage. However, while many aspects of modern life differ considerably, the themes in the play resonate with audiences today just as well as they did when it was written.
As is the case with the work of all artists, Shakespeare did not please all of the people, all of the time. An early critic, Samuel Pepys, wrote in 1662 that: “it is a play of itself the worst that I ever heard in my life.” In the intervening 360 years, enough of us have laughed and cried at the swings from comedy to tragedy in this enduring and endlessly adaptable play to ensure that it will survive to tell its tale for a few more centuries at least.
A story adapted by many – including Shakespeare
Since it was originally published in 1597, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has become one of the most frequently performed Shakespeare play. And it has been transformed and adapted many times in many ways and different formats – not only as a play, and not only on stage. In 1957, the Broadway musical ‘West Side Story’, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, was based on the story. That production evolved into the movie version, which won a total of 10 Oscars in 1962. In a completely different format, three years later, choreographer Kenneth MacMillan began work on his version of Romeo and Juliet as a ballet performed to the music of Sergei Prokofiev, with dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in the lead roles. Of the many operas based on the story, Gounod’s is perhaps the most enduring. The original source of the story is uncertain, but it is known to pre-date Shakespeare by almost one hundred years. Like many playwrights of his time, Shakespeare used bits and pieces of older legends and tales around which to create something that would engage and entertain his contemporary audience.
Our contemporary abridged production
An ensemble cast of nine actors brought Shakespeare’s tragic tale of star-crossed lovers to life in a contemporary, fast paced and insightful retelling. This abridged production, directed by Geoff O’Keeffe, ran for 90 minutes without an interval.
The cast included Benjamin Lafayette as Romeo and Eilish McLaughlin as Juliet, supported by Lesley Conroy, Ross Fitzpatrick, Sarah Foley, Fiach Kunz, Garry Mountaine, Evelyn Shaw and Ben Waddell. The voice of the Prince (pre-recorded) was Declan Brennan.
Set Design was by Gerard Bourke, Lighting Design by Kris Mooney, Sound Design by Declan Brennan and Costume Design by Florentina Burcea.
“A big thank you…”
Our previous stage production of Romeo and Juliet was closed in its final few days at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Two years later, it was great to be back on stage with another fresh look at Shakespeare’s classic and to welcome students from schools all over Ireland into the theatre once again. The lingering effects of the pandemic continued to make their presence felt, but as producer, Karen Carleton, said: “Despite many hurdles Romeo and Juliet started and finished its sold-out run in dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum. Our sincere thanks to Michael J Ford and Emma Lowe for temporarily standing in for some of the performances at the last hour”. Echoing that sentiment, director, Geoff O’Keeffe, expressed his appreciation for everyone who helped to make it such a success, from those on and off stage, to those in the auditorium: “To our wonderful company, creatives, crew and all the staff at the Mill for making this happen against the odds, we salute you. Finally a big thank you to all who came to see the show. It was for you.”
Photography by Declan Brennan