STAGE: Romeo and Juliet – Westville Boys’ High and Westville Girls’ High pupils – Roy Couzens Theatre, Westville Boys’ High
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
MOUNTING a large school production is no mean task, especially with busy teenagers dividing their time between a gazillion other activities. Mounting a large school production of Shakespeare is surely an even greater task.
Mounting a production as slick, elegant and engaging as this one, directed by KickstArt’s award-winning Steven Stead, who teaches drama at Westville Boys’ High and Westville Girls’ High, is an even more impressive feat.
This is a truly remarkable production of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, and the talented and energetic team of youths involved in the production, which was four months in the making, can be mighty proud of what they have accomplished.
Of course, it helps having a director the calibre of Stead, who draws detailed, honest, nuanced and confident performances from a cast that performs with zeal and a sense of genuine enjoyment.
Stead has avoided the popular temptation of modernising the story other than to add a prologue delivered by a young lad who arrives dancing with earphones on his head; and the mixing of contemporary beats into the atmospheric music that has been deftly edited by Evan Roberts.
This Romeo and Juliet takes place in what the programme labels as a semi-fantastical Medieval Verona, where a customarily fine set by KickstArt’s award-winning Greg King dominates a sloping, triple-tiered stage area that extends into the audience on three sides, allowing greater intimacy.
Stead moves his players around the entire area very well and it is makes for a grand spectacle, with added embellishment of lighting by the brilliant Michael Taylor-Broderick and fine costumes, the majority being altered outfits from Terrence Bray’s designs for Kickstart’s superb production of Camelot.
In his unfolding of the Bard’s classic tale of young love found and young lives lost, Stead draws some truly exemplary performances, his Romeo (Dumo Cele) and Juliet (Keryn Scott) each offering superlative moments and being consistent throughout. Honest, assured performances from both.
Special mention also has to be made of expressive and elastic-limbed Thando X Mzimela’s scene-stealing and highly colourful Mercutio, Amahle Tembe’s delightful Nurse, and the little spark of fun that is tiny Alwande Hlangwane, who is the play’s prologue speaker and also appears as Peter, the harassed fan-carrier for Nurse.
Applause must also go to professional choreographer Daisy Spencer for her fun contribution to a colourful dance highlight involving most of the cast, and to sound design, by Brandon Bunyan of Black Coffee, which involves all in the cast wearing head mics.
Good news is that the production’s short run, which ends on Sunday evening, has entirely sold out, which bodes well for future productions at this school.