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Daily Helping for October 8th, 2021 – Cygnet Theatre – Romeo and Juliet

A photo of the curtain call for Romeo and Juliet by Cygnet Theatre. The cast is standing in a line in front of the stage on the right, while the audience is seated on the left.
Photo by Sabine Dundure

Full disclosure. I have never liked Romeo and Juliet. Specifically, I’ve never understood why this play is held up as the ultimate tale of romance. It’s a story about a three day affair between two teenagers that results in the deaths of six people. Not exactly my definition of romance. Of course, Romeo and Juliet is technically one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, as it should be. But according to pop culture, it’s all star-crossed lovers and hopeless romance, which again, is just baffling to me. All of this is to say that Romeo and Juliet would not be my first choice when it comes to choosing a Shakespeare play to go watch. However, the second I heard that Cygnet Theatre was producing an all female production, I was all in. I couldn’t wait to see how this casting decision changed the dynamics of the story. Spoiler alert. It was awesome.

First of all, the show was performed at the Arènes de Montmartre, a stunningly beautiful outdoor performance space that is built like a Roman amphitheatre. That’s right. I got to see Shakespeare performed under the stars in a Roman amphitheatre on the hill of Montmartre. I sometimes wonder how I got to be so lucky to live in a city where this is possible. However, when I wasn’t marvelling at my surroundings, I was marvelling at the cast onstage, because the myriad of ways that the casting impacted the play was absolutely fascinating. Roles that used to be stereotypical suddenly took on extra layers of complexities. Relationship dynamics were turned on their head. And interestingly, the difference in how Shakespeare wrote for men vs women was amplified a thousandfold. And sometimes not in a good way.

All in all, it was a fascinating night at the theatre, and I loved every second of it. Cygnet Theatre produces a season of Shakespeare productions every year, so I can’t wait to see what they do next. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, pondering the fact that I may actually like Romeo and Juliet now? I suppose weirder things have happened.

One last note. There were actually two men in the cast, one of whom was responsible for probably the most brilliant piece of physical comedy I’ve ever seen. How he managed to make a bit about picking up poles go on for several minutes is beyond me. But he did. And I literally cried with laughter.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!