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Happy Birthday Shakespeare, Celebrating with Globe’s Romeo and Juliet

Happy Birthday Shakespeare, Celebrating with Globe’s Romeo and Juliet

It’s William Shakespeare’s birthday today, and we are celebrating in self-isolation style in Toronto last night and tonight. The Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank of London has gloriously gifted us all with the free streaming of their 2009 production of Romeo and Juliet. And tonight, I’ll carry on the celebration with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival‘s filmed version of King Lear, which I’m totally excited about. Both bring back memories of past productions and of course the magnificent Canadian television series, “Slings and Arrows“, a show that after I finish writing this piece, I’m going to try to track down online and also dive into that a bit.

It’s about youthful passion and love’s young dream filled to the edge with impatience and desire. I’m also wanting to talk some sense into these love-struck kids, telling them to take a breath and pause for a second, and the outcome might be different, but it never seems to be heard. As directed with a sure-footed sense of humor by Dominic Dromgoole, the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre production fills my heart with love sick glory, wanting to feel that flutter once again, but not to the same point these teenagers do.

Adetomiwa Edun and Ellie Kendrick in The Globe‘s 2009 Romeo and Juliet.

I was told when I watched the romantic tragedy last night that some feminists refer to it as ‘the rape play‘ as Juliet, played intensely by Ellie Kendrick (Meera Reed in “Game of Thrones“) is almost 14 years old when she gets married off.  Now, granted, this was more the norm back in the day of fair Verona, but the beauty of this production is we feel Juliet’s young heart on fire, while we also see her inability to fully understand what the fire brings along with it. Touchingly serious, her Juliet might want to develop a wider range to her emotionality to make us really quake for her pain and desire. She seems more permanently angry all the time, even when dreaming of her wedding bed. But for all her hot-blooded urgency the young love feels right and true.

Romeo, in the hands of the handsome young Adetomiwa Edun (National Theatre’s Translations), is also well defined and filled with a fiery passion for life and love. His speech is perfection, and his intent well designed. He and Kendrick fill the space with a strong intelligent reading of the verse, but fail to really convince me of their undying love for one another. Their meeting at the ball registers as profound and life-altering, but the Capulet vault scene fails to register the sadness and hurt.

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Philip Cumbus, Jack Farthing, and Ukweli Roach in The Globe‘s 2009 Romeo and Juliet.

Director Dromgoole (Arcola Theatre’s Americans) unearths such clever use of music and frivolity in the interactions in between the drama and flailing around in heartbreak. This is most apparent with Benvolio, beautifully portrayed by Jack Farthing (BBC One’s “Poldark“), and his sidekick in play, Mercutio, smartly portrayed by the wonderful Philip Cumbus (Globe’s Macbeth),  who never seem to stop having a good time with their wise and witty interactions, even when in battle with the angry Tybalt, well played by Ukweli Roach (NBC’s “Blindspot“). Cumbus’ Queen Mab speech is one of the true highlights of this production, starting out as a childish lark, but gradually grows into something deeper and far darker than one expected from the playful beginning.  This shifting of tone is exactly what is needed throughout, especially in terms of the delivery of Romeo and Juliet’s poetry with one another, but more importantly, when they talk to themselves.

There are scenes throughout that I don’t recall ever seeing, most of them filled with good fun, diving headfirst into the playfully twisty wordplay of Shakespeare. It’s a shame the deadly pain of loss and separation within the leads’ hearts never feels as true or honest as the playful tossing around of mirth and merriment by the others. But it does, in the end, make for a well-paced and fine rendering of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. But I think I’ll watch, instead, Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic version if I truly want to be emotionally swept away and destroyed by young love and passion.

Full cast of Globe’s Romeo and Juliet 2009.

If you are able, please donate to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (click here) or a theatre company that you love. They could all use our help, as they are in desperate need.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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