Thursday, March 10, 2022




Selene Weinachter and Kip Johnson as Juliet and Romeo in
Lost Dog's Juliet & Romeo directed by Ben Duke
Photo by Tristram Kenton

Juliet & Romeo. 

Directed and choreographed by Ben Duke. Performed by Solene Weinachter and Kip Johnson. Lost Dog. Scott Theatre. Adelaide Festival. March 5-7 and 9-12 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Juliet and Romeo have reached an impasse in their marriage. After twenty years the cracks are beginning to annoy, disappoint and frustrate. The flame that ignited their passion has now dimmed and the star crossed lovers are contemplating separation. It is Juliet who initiates the conversation, posing questions to Romeo whose monosyllabic responses suggest an unwillingness to confront the awkward reality of their marital problems. Juliet’s solution is to reenact the memories of their relationship from the fancy dress party when their eyes locked across a crowded room through the trials and tribulations of different expectations, the loss of a child, the affair, parenthood and communication breakdown. Their journey ingeniously parallels the trajectory of their namesakes’ deaths, a metaphorical death when, in the final moment, Juliet is left alone as Romeo backs away through the darkness.

Photo by Jane Hobson

Lost Dog’s Artistic Director Ben Duke has constructed an intriguing scenario. Two chairs separated by a large indoor plant represent a marriage counsellor’s office where Juliet and Romeo face the reality of an imminent marriage breakdown. A series of vignettes construct a glimpse of the events leading up to the inescapable conclusion. Each vignette depicts a memory from either Romeo’s or Juliet’s perspective. Snippets of Shakespeare’s text permeate the dialogue, sketching the passage of love, parental objection, sexual passion and ill-fated destiny. This segues into dance, superbly intertwined physical theatre and a fusion of body and emotion. Each vignette is underscored by a familiar soundtrack, irrepressible passion accompanied by a stirring recording of music from Prokofiev’s composition for the ballet of Romeo and Juliet, or the soulful sound of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. There is resignation, an acceptance of the inevitable as body and limbs intertwine to Sinatra’s That’s Life and the inescapable consequence is  reflected in the voice of Marvin Gaye as the audience watches the demise of hope and promise and the fading of romantic love. The joyful passion of unrestrained adulation and attraction appears unable to withstand the obstructions to Juliet and Romeo’s marriage.

I have difficulty with the perception of a doomed relationship because Weinachter and Johnson share a very special theatrical relationship together. Their dance is vital, physical and highly expressive. Each moment is immaculately choreographed. Johnson’s preening posturing as he approaches Juliet in a peacock display of masculine strutting has an audience in hysterics as does the occasional exhibition of the art of coarse acting. In an instant Weinachter and Johnson turn laughter to sombre compassion as  Juliet and Romeo confront grief and loss. They watch in bewilderment as a foolish moment of lost control can damage a marriage founded on love. Illusion is shattered in the portals of life’s reality. The course of true love never did run smooth.

Photo by Jane Hobson

Weinachter and Johnson work wonderfully together attuned to each other’s excellent sense of  timing and versatile physicality. Duke directs with a fine eye for the moment, keeping the action moving  and the audience utterly engaged. Only the death scenes though comical in Weinachter’s supine paortrayal of deaths instantaneousness could have been shorter. Also difficult to understand at times was Weinachter’s strong French accent. As charming as that might be, words were lost and with them the sense of occasion.  Moments of anger flare and although the meaning is clear in gesture and voice, the words lose their clarity.

Juliet and Romeo is an ingenious take on and use of Shakespeare’s plot and text, but it is the relationship between two delightful performers on the stage and their physical interaction to circumstance and feeling that makes Juliet and Romeo a refreshing, insightful and imaginative theatre and dance experience.    [i]