Sunday, 11 November 2012

Killing Romeo - review

Written by: Natasha Shah (@Tash_Shah)

Etcetera Theatre, London

Romeo and Juliet might have been star crossed lovers, but it turns out the actors playing them were neurotic, vicious egomaniacs; at least that’s the case in Etcetera Theatre’s latest production. In Jazz Martinez Gamboa’s writing and directorial debut, two young actors in their final year of training rehearse scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as they battle to be signed by an agent. However, as the tension and frustration builds, their relationship grows complex and they find themselves unable to work together with any success. The language of Romeo and Juliet is interwoven into the text and the characters at times use Shakespeare’s prose where their own fails them.

Alex Marx and Antoinette Alexandrou both deliver solid performances in this hour long two-hander; both demonstrate a great onstage chemistry and their performance kindly allows the audience into the characters’ temperamental relationship. The focus that both actors hold throughout the play is truly impressive; this might seem like an odd thing to mention, but on the night that I saw this play, the audience was bizarrely vocal. Whilst at times I was unable to concentrate on anything other than the audience, Alexandrou and Marx displayed an incredible professionalism and dedication to the play, despite the many full volume, full-blown conversations taking place throughout the piece.

The piece itself is full of interesting, funny moments that capture the emotions and tension of these young actors as they embark upon their acting career. Martinez-Gamboa’s writing cleverly plays with the growing competition between the two characters, darting dangerously between flirtatious teasing and vicious taunts that are fraught with fears of failure. Unfortunately, where the piece encounters trouble is in the prolonged, over dramatic ending. The final five minutes or so take place in silence bar the occasional sob or whimper; if there was supposed to be some sense of overwhelming tragedy akin to Romeo and Juliet itself, I’m afraid this just missed the mark. Perhaps it’s because the play doesn’t do enough to make you really feel for the characters, or perhaps it’s because the action seems so unbelievable and out of place. Either way, if the intention was to draw emotion from the audience then this didn’t quite get us there.

Despite this, Martinez-Gamboa’s first offering is an interesting and engaging one. The play deals with a subject matter that one does not often see staged and reminds us that acting certainly is a risky business...perhaps in more ways than one.

This production runs until 11 November 2012. 

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