“Never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Perhaps, but there can be an awful lot of despair that comes with performing the Shakespearian tragedy at the Fringe. One of the six productions on this year is the multimedia performance from Boxlit. Featuring a glowing box with projections behind it, a cast of two act out the story between them.
When the audience first see the set it is a striking sight. After that, the redundancy of the gimmick wears off. The use of space is creative, but the projected images are an unnecessary distraction with no subtlety whatsoever. When Romeo (Seb Christophers) says the word “eye” in his romantic ramblings an eye appears on the screen. There are repeated images of Juliet (Chloe Levis) twirling dreamily or brushing her hair, which is tugged when she faces conflict with her father on stage. Its symbolism is simple without being that visually interesting.
Director and producer Andrew Livingston’s vision for the show seems to be a cold dystopian future where two lovers find a human connection that makes them feel alive again, but his directorial decisions range from pretentious to amateurish. The small cast enter in wispy white linin, gazing into the distance like a bad perfume advert. The first fight scene features balaclavas (a jarringly modern touch) and a Darth Vader style chock hold. The adaptation of the script for a two-person one-hour performance works well – the pacing of the story flows and even though cutting out so many characters the makes it feel bare.
A couple of the characters are performed well, but all are tinged with a smugness that none of them earn. Christophers speeds through his lines at an alarming rate, often comically overacting to the point of parody. Levis doesn’t demonstrate her emotional range, and has a habit of widening her eyes as though she has just seen some kind of unwelcome rodent peering through the window.
Heaven forbid this production should be seen by someone who had never seen the play before, but sometimes Shakespeare fans can be easier to please. I love being reunited with a text even if the production is lacklustre, but here it is so butchered by the indulgent direction and acting that it becomes near unbearable. Sadly, A Boxlit Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet is a definitive example of style over substance. Two stars.
Whispers from the crowd:
"I think Romeo and Juliet was the wrong play for this company to choose, it's too complex for such a small cast. But it had amazing actors and a brilliant concept."