[Review] Shakespeare in the Park: Romeo and Juliet

By Denis Finn

The Singapore Repertory Theatre brings another installment of their always popular Shakespeare in The Park productions to the Singapore public this month.

Fort Canning is the site of this highly entertaining drama, with the Singapore skyline as the backdrop. As always, the park provides an intimate setting for 2,000 onlookers, seated on cushions, picnic blankets and makeshift chairs. For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s a review on the opening night.

romeo juliet 2 - pub dom

One of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies, the story of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, was presented by director Daniel Slater, in an interesting, fresh way under the stars. The story revolved around Romeo (Thomas Pang), and Juliet (Cheryl Tan) and their secret, forbidden romance.

Their families, the Montagues and Capulets, had been involved in a long-running dispute, as evidenced by the raucous brawl in the opening scene. Romeo and Juliet later met and fell in love at a party, before later finding out each other’s identities. They were married in secret, before fate intervened leading to the tragedy in the final act of the play.

The 400-year-old play was set in modern, urban Asia – the set consisting of a maze of several Escher-like staircases and modern cityscape. The set-designer, Francis O’Connor, together with the lighting crew, did a fantastic job portraying such different environments as the intimate balcony and bedroom scenes, and the sprawling public fight sequences.

There were great performances delivered all around by the stellar cast. The lead actors gave a strong performance, and were never found wanting. Shane Mardjuki turned in a great performance as the hilariously witty Mercutio (even on his death-bed he continued to pun: ‘ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man’), as well as acting as the poison-selling apothecary. Although ultimately a tragedy, there were some very comedic moments, with great wordplay and banter throughout the first two acts. Juliet’s comment to her nurse got the biggest laugh of the night: ‘How art thou out of breath when thou hast breath to say to me that thou are out of breath?’

The only criticism might be the poorly choreographed fight scenes. The combatants flailed around and struck each other repeatedly with batons. After Mercutio was apparently bludgeoned to death with a baton, Romeo absurdly pulled out a gun to clinically execute Tybalt in revenge. Also slightly strange but engaging was the Prince of Verona’s entrance on stage riding an actual motorcycle at one point in his attempts to keep the peace between Romeo and Juliet’s respective feuding families.

SRT annually subsidized tickets for this event and are reportedly making large financial losses. This is likely to be the last installment of Shakespeare in the Park for the foreseeable future. I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to see the play. Romeo and Juliet is one of the most-performed of Shakespeare’s plays, and for good reason.

In any case this may be your last opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s works in the al fresco, beautiful setting of Fort Canning. So pack your picnic hampers and blankets and get down to Fort Canning Park for a fantastic evening of entertainment before this run ends on 22nd May.

Time: 7:30pm (2hrs 15mins)

Dates: 27th Apr – 22nd May

Price: $40-$108 via SISTIC. Youths between the age of 15 – 25 will be able to purchase 1 ticket to Shakespeare in the Park – Romeo & Juliet at only $15, simply by presenting their Singaporean NRIC at any SISTIC counter. Only 30 YOUth tickets available for each performance.