Romeo is a girl

— feeling love
Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare

Yesterday, I watched Romeo and Juliet, staged by our local theatrical college, Studio 58. The kids get their BAs when they graduate the 3-year program, so it’s a serious theatrical institution, one of the best in Canada. I can’t really write a review here. I wrote it for my newspaper, and until they publish it next week, I can’t publish it elsewhere. But I can say a few words, relay my impressions.

First thing first – I loved it. Even though the student performance was often flawed, they did an excellent job with it. In an established theatre, this play, as many popular Shakespearean plays, is often too polished. As I saw a premier acted by students for the first time (no, it was actually performance #3) in their lives, the entire show was alive, utterly fresh, throbbing with youth and possibilities. And although it is a well-known play, done so many times on stage and on screen that it’s hard to imagine an original interpretation, they managed. They made Romeo a girl, and it worked.

And the main reason it worked was Romeo, played by our local Vancouver girl, Camilla Legg. Remember her name, folks. This girl will have a future in acting. She was wonderful as Romeo. Some in the audience called her “luminous.” She was.

Her Romeo was unexpectedly young and naive, a girl on the brink of adulthood, just discovering her sexuality, and her wide-eyed innocence made her character’s belief in the power of love plausible. Her love was radiant and boundless; her grief all-encompassing. Perhaps, the actress overdid the dramatics a little, but then her Romeo is a teenager. Teenage hormones meant emotional ‘overkill’ in any historical era.

Personally, I would’ve cast her as Juliet, and she would’ve been equally great, but obviously the director had other ideas. As a result, the Juliet in the show was clearly older than Romeo, more mature, curvier and sexier. She tried to act the travesty, the 14-year-old Juliet, but it didn’t really click, although the actress herself was good. She could’ve been even better playing a role more suited to her.

I guess, the director had a very small pool of actors to choose her stars from: only the students of the second and third year of the program, but despite the strange casting of Juliet, the entire show worked.

Here is a photo of Romeo(left) and Juliet(right) from the show I found online.

Adding a lesbian theme to the show worked on another level too – it made the story more comprehensible for the younger audience. For most people in the 21st century North America, a family feud is a stuff of legend. It doesn’t happen in modern life, while parental resistance to their kids’ gay or lesbian inclinations is all too real. Some experience it first-hand or have friends who do. Others are on the parents’ side of the equation or know someone who is. Consequently, everyone in the audience could relate to it.

I enjoyed the show tremendously.