Published on February 12th, 2014 | by Joseph Kearney0
Theatre Review: A Tender Thing in
Siren Productions has brought Ben Power’s reimagining of the world’s most infamous teenage lovers to the Project Arts Centre. We meet Romeo and his fair Juliet in the twilight of their years having somehow escaped death to live a long life together. We do not get all the details of their love story.
We do not learn if the Montagues and Capulets buried the age old hatchet to celebrate the union of their two young off spring. We don’t discover if the wedding was a forbidden elopement or a regal affair to challenge the likes of Kate and William. We do discover Juliet had a daughter but that the Lord saw fit to call this girl child back to heaven before she reached adulthood. The bleakness of this revelation is in keeping with the tone of the 90 minute piece. Juliet is dying; she is in pain for most of the performance. Romeo is wont to let her go. The famous love scene is used word verbatim but in this version it is their parting piece on the precipice of death. Olwyn Fouéré opens the show upon her silk blue floral embroidered death bed. The energy and light emitting from this powerful actress tells the audience she is preparing for death. Lighting up just before her light extinguishes. The room itself is a macabre Fawlty Towers, the bedding matching the wallpaper which is almost grand and at the same time very banal and British.
The entire set is framed by a lopsided blue enormous picture frame. The furniture and costumes are sometime bright and characters in themselves most especially Juliet’s yellow party dress which is at times the embodiment of hope, happiness and love dances past. It floats form a magical Narnia within the closet and dresses dying Juliet as a totem directly to a happier past.
The writer has borrowed from several Shakespearian sources, sonnets, other characters and he has weaved together an imagined parting conversation between two humans whose love endured. Euthanasia is explored between a man who can’t let his woman go but can’t live in a world where she suffers such pain. The physical expression of terminal illness as presented by Fouéré is as impressive as it is almost unbearable to witness. She finds childish energy to tell a spritely warning to Romeo of Queen Mab and her fairy carriage but as she finishes the tale she suffers a spasm, an involuntary loss of motor control and collapses into his arms. Helpless he puts her upon the bed to fetch her medicines. It is this pairing of the Bards iconic lovers with real and everyday experiences of older married couples that is the true achievement of A Tender Thing. Director Cartmell brings the extraordinary into the very believable and ordinary.
For Shakespeare lovers this piece will either delight you or be heralded as sacrilege but as the Bard has been re-imagined and revisited so many times I’m confident your will celebrate the new approach and the evolution of Romeo and Juliet.
The piece does not answer the pressing questions of what happened, nor does it join the dots about the family feud but it does celebrate undying love and takes on the very challenging topics of terminal illness, euthanasia and the dreadful decisions some couples are equally fortunate and dammed to live long enough to suffer.
A Tender Thing runs right up to Saturday 15th February. Tickets are from €18 to €25 and are available from The Project Arts Theatre.