Never has Shakespeare been spoken more trippingly on and off the tongue than on Friday night when the sometimes outrageous, often farcical and always engaging Juliet: A Revenge Comedy opened at The Cultch’s Historic Theatre.
This gloriously fast-paced romp begins with its co-writer, director, and co-producer Ryan Gladstone bursting upon the stage as William Shakespeare in ill-fitting female garb more fit for Juliet’s nurse. As he brandishes a volume of his collected works, he extols the merits of five of his most famous plays that feature female characters who meet untimely deaths.
One such heroine is Juliet, portrayed by Lili Beaudoin with immaculate comedy timing, occasional moments of tenderness and a refreshingly honest-to-goodness delivery that every Shakespearean actor should envy. After hilarious diminishing repetitions of her death scene, Juliet decides to rewrite those ill-fated female roles so she, alongside Lady MacBeth (MacBeth), Cleopatra (Anthony and Cleopatra), Ofelia (Othello) and Miranda (The Tempest) all survive and flourish with purposeful lives.
Carly Pokoradi plays each of these other ‘femmes fatales’ and their male counterparts, Juliet’s nurse, mother, suitors, priest and everyone else, in an outstanding show of versatility, wit and more than a hint of pantomimic burlesque.
Moreover, she does it with no costume additions or props. In fact, the only props used throughout this often irreverent and raunchy feast spiced with familiar quotes from all five plays were a quill, a dagger and that leather-bound collection of works already mentioned. Each one makes a significant contribution to the point of Gladstone’s and co-writer and producer Pippa Mackie’s script with its timely reference to the pen being mightier than the sword and an acknowledgement of the power of words.
The simple set, lighting, sound and costumes are a lesson in less is more. The fourth wall is continually broken with entrances and exchanges throughout the auditorium and invitations to the audience to participate.
Everything in this well-oiled production works so seamlessly under Gladstone’s tight direction that The Cultch has extended its run for an extra four performances. It’s easy to see why.
Juliet: A Revenge Comedy by Pippa Mackie and Ryan Gladstone. Directed by Ryan Gladstone. A Monster Theatre production. On stage at The Cultch’s Historic Theatre (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until February 23. Visit thecultch.com for tickets and information.