The stage of the Town Hall Theatre will be transformed into Juliet’s balcony when the young local actors of the Cudgegong Youth Theatre stage Shakespeare’s tale of star-cross’d lovers.
The lovers’ ages –the play states that Juliet is not quite 14 – makes it a perfect fit for the high school aged actors of Mudgee Performing Arts Society’s youth theatre project.
Still, taking on the complexity of Shakespeare’s language has been a new challenge for the group, and has taken its actors to a new level.
“We’ve studied every line in the play, and tailored everyone’s performances to bring out the meaning of the words and ensure the emotions of the play are still immediate and real even while everyone speaks in Shakespeare’s beautiful elaborate poetry,” said director Sam Paine.
He said the production used Shakespeare’s original language while modernising the story’s setting.
Josie McConnell plays Romeo, a young lady of the Montague family, who falls in love at first sight with Bethany Haysom’s Juliet.
The two can only marry in secret, and their union is torn apart by the ongoing feud between the Capulets and Montagues.
“The production has an amazing energy and playfulness to it,” said Sam.
“With the nurse as Juliet’s best friend, and Romeo with her group of buddies, there’s a thrilling exuberance in the scenes of the bandying young friends, as well as great tenderness in the scenes between the lovers.
“Then there are also violent knife fights, raw emotion, love and hate – it’s all in there.”
He said the production was a major milestone for the Cudgegong Youth Theatre, which is now a year old, with the Elizabethan language and complex characterisations requiring a new level of dedication from the performers.
Alongside Bethany Haysom and Josie McConnell as Juliet and her Romeo, the play stars regular youth theatre performers Milla Jones and Hayden Wake as Tybalt and Mercutio, Maddie Date as Romeo’s friend Benvolio, Bella Tant as Juliet’s mischievous nurse, and Jacob O’Neill as the County Paris.
The play will be Josie’s last appearance with the group for a while, as she prepares to transfer to a South Australian performing arts high school.
A handful of adult performers round out the cast as the parents of the warring families, and the director also appears on stage as the authority figure of the Prince.
“I’m excited about the production,” said Sam.
“The young actors deliver performances as good as any of our adult actors, with an energy and passion that is all their own. It’s going to be a thrilling night at the theatre.”
The Cudgegong Youth Theatre is a Mudgee Performing Arts Society project to develop the region’s young performers. The younger members of the group most recently performed an adaptation of a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Gulgong Folk Festival, and will next start work on a production of Peter Pan.
Romeo and Juliet will be staged at the Town Hall Theatre at 8pm on Friday, January 15; 2.30pm and 8pm on Saturday, January 16; 8pm on Friday, January 22; and 2.30pm and 8pm on Saturday, January 23.