Not quite your traditional love story

2016-07-26 06:00
Robert Shenton co-wrote and co-directed the piece.

Robert Shenton co-wrote and co-directed the piece.

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A group of young local thespians will be turning Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet on its head at the Galloway Theatre next week.

Romeo and Juliet: Sort of, opens on Thursday 4 August and the first thing writer and director Michaela Richards wants audiences to know is: “It’s definitely not your very clichéd remake of Romeo and Juliet.”

Instead, this version of the classic treats Shakespeare as a God or puppeteer, while his characters live the life he’s written for them. Two of his characters, namely Romeo and Juliet, decide that they want something else for their lives though. “Our characters have developed a sense of free will,” Michaela explains.

As a graduate of the Waterfront Theatre School and creator of Dating, Mating and Relating for Dummies, Michaela says she usually starts writing a play with a monologue which she then expands on. With this piece, she says she wanted to create something that would appeal to schools, but her initial script was “stale.”

“Eventually I went into my sister’s room, sat on the edge of her bed and asked: ‘Nicole, how do I make this different?’”

The two started throwing “completely absurd” ideas around, and some of them happened to stick.

Eventually, she gave the script to friend and actor Robert Shenton to edit. The two met while working on one-act plays at Fairmont High School and Michaela says she’s always enjoyed his humour, something that crept into one of her characters, Mercutio, who Robert will be playing.

Robert also added his own ideas and nuances to the script. “It was a huge collaborative work,” Michaela says. “I created the skeleton and he sort of planted the flesh on the body.”

Daniel Rom was also at Fairmont with Michaela and he and Robert were her first choices for actors while she met her Nurse, Tara Macpherson, while studying at the Waterfront Theatre School. After a round of auditions, they welcomed Keegan Van Zyl as Romeo and Llewellyn van der Berg to the cast.

When she isn’t working in the theatre world, Michaela is a presenter on One FM and is using the opening night of Romeo and Juliet: Sort of to help with the station’s canned food drive. The audience are asked to bring a can of food in exchange for a glass of wine.

Michaela stresses that while the production is a comedy, it’s definitely not silly. She also points out that audiences should definitely not expect a traditional Shakespeare story. Instead her and Robert have used the outlines and nuances of the original text to create their own story. “It’s very much a reimagining and parody,” Robert says. “Expect a heavy dose of ‘sort of’,” Michaela adds. V Romeo and Juliet: Sort of will be at the Galloway Theatre from Thursday 4 to Saturday 6 August. Tickets cost R120 from www.waterfronttheatreschool.co.za/booknow. Send a WhatsApp to Sharon on 082 772 8867 for more information.

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