Star Crossed Shoppers

Broadway Baby Rating:
Two Thirds Theatre Company bring a tremendous modern day transformation of Romeo and Juliet to the stage. Written by Victoria Baker, the ingenious script translates the warring houses of Capulet and Montague into rival supermarkets. As Tesco and Asda battle it out, Rodney and Julie Facebook chat and decide to renounce the constraints of their employers so that Julie can follow her dream to become a beautician. The performance gives the old classic a hilarious makeover and the result is something excellent.If this sounds a little absurd, it is, and that is what makes it awesome. This adaptation has a charisma all of its own. There are a couple of choice lines from the Shakespearian script which keep it solidly rooted, but these are brilliantly juxtaposed with a whirlwind of colloquialisms and Geordie idiosyncrasies. This boots any tragic element completely out of the window; this is a full blown comedy and you will laugh your socks off. It’s a slight shame that the play doesn’t find a way to finish more neatly mirroring the original plot, but its conclusion is extremely entertaining nonetheless.

Each member of this seven strong cast ace their performances. Jordan Alexandria as Nan (The Nurse) has impeccable comic timing while Victoria Baker as Julie is the perfect stereotypical teenager; everyone brings sterling talent to the table. Moreover, they work not just as individuals but as a synchronised unit to create the set, the sound, and the lighting. Walls made out of human tetris are built on stage, human ducks are fed in the human park, even the internet becomes a human being filled with human viruses. The innovation in every scene is astounding, especially when it manages to incorporate cultural references (90s kids in the audience will particularly appreciate a Pokemon sketch) and a sense of topicality. There is also a humorous touch of self-consciousness cleverly delivered through audible mutterings from the actors and deliberate awkwardness. This adds another layer to the production and means that it firmly establishes itself as a comedy with a distinct depth.

This is Shakespearian tragedy made youthful and vivacious. Rodney and Julie J wholly succeeds in bringing a startling originality to a play already approached from a thousand angles, plus making its audience cry with laughter.

Melissa Lawford
Melissa Lawford has written 28 reviews for Broadway Baby since joining the team in 2013.

By Any Other Name

Matthew von Richards Rating:
The longevity of the works of Shakespeare have created something of a double-edged sword in the theatrical world; the themes and nuances and lyricism may continue to resonate with a modern audience (at least well enough to keep getting them produced), the prevalence of which has lent itself to an assortment of heavy-handed and self-important enterprises: a vacuous and indulgent demonstration of blustery prestige. It’s an unfortunate trend which has created a stifling air of pretension in theatre, generating audiences of polite detachment and performers who are losing touch with the heart of what brought them to the field in the first place, driving a wedge further and further between the two. And along comes a show like Rodney & Julie J. The artificial trappings of one of Shakespeare’s most overdone and exasperatingly maudlin shows are all there–the “star-crossed” lovers, the rival factions, the street brawls, and the ill-informed schemes–twisted and perverted (and that’s meant in the best way possible) into a world of absurdist and Brechtian sensibilities that defies, every step of the way, the tired notions of “class” and “dignity” that have become associated with theatre. The story is told through the modern perspective of warring supermarkets, with the tight and perfectly choreographed small cast of seven simultaneously breezing between multiple different characters and miming the artifices of the different locale portrayed: consciously aware of and cheekily referring to the artificiality of their bare stage. The whirlwind love affair of the titular characters, which we like to imagine is heartrending and utterly romantic, is aptly exposed for its inherent stupidity by rendering it in the colors of our instant-access culture. The famous balcony scene is instead told across the sterile lights of iPhones; instead of marriage, Julie J dreams of getting to college with her love and becoming a “beauty therapist”; and, when the show’s Friar analogue (cleverly named Tuck) first meets Rodney’s paramour, he can’t help but ask, “Wait, this is the girl?” Everyone is in on the joke, and it couldn’t be more exhilaratingly refreshing. Light changes are called for in the vein of grocery store intercom announcements, a cappella renditions ranging from the Star Wars Imperial theme to “All You Need Is Love” help humorously set the tone for various encounters, and the famous street brawl… well, I don’t want to ruin anything, but you’ve never seen a thumb war end like this before. This is a wild, raucous deconstruction; as wildly hysterical as it is relevant. Yes, relevant: I can’t remember a more important work of theatre I’ve witnessed of late. Gone is the dreary class, the dull dignity, and the boring prestige that has regrettably become synonymous with what is, at its heart, meant to be an unpredictable and exciting art form. This is everything theatre should be: fun, inclusive, reckless and rebellious, and unforgettable. If you’ve become far too mired in the tedious routine, if you’re one of the politely detached, you may be ill-prepared for what’s in store here, but hopefully your mind will remain open enough: because it’s for you that this piece is most necessary. After all, Shakespeare is still here, somewhere; but so is Pikachu.

Matthew von Richards

Ed Fringe: 2 Thirds Theatre’s “Rodney & Julie J” review

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August 4, 2013 by thelastgreenhalgh

6-word summary review: Clever. Creative. Modern. Faithful. Hysterically funny.

Clever. Creative. Modern. There was physical theatre used during and in between the scenes, often compensating for having no set (which I thought was a good decision, because it kept the pace up). They found a multitude of ways to modernise aspects and details of the Shakespearean version, all very pleasing.

Faithful. Even though there was very little of the original script used, all the elements were there. Modernised, but they were there.

Hysterically funny. I am aware that I was in a particularly appreciative audience, and that makes a difference. Nonetheless, the comedy and silliness are unrelenting. The modern world and Shakespeare are both wickedly satirised.

Don’t recommend if: You don’t like kids messing with the Bard (sacrilege!) You want a serious modernisation a la Baz Luhrman.

Do recommend if: You want satire and silliness with lots of laughs. You know your Shakespeare and want to see what they’ve done with it.

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