Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Giving a voice to a hitherto unnoticed character, this debut production for the Little Trojan Theatre Company is a pivotal reimagining of the classic Shakespearean tale, Romeo and Juliet.
Staged in the charming KXT at the Kings Cross Hotel, Rosaline is a brand-new work by Australian playwright, Joanna Erskine. In the original story, we first meet Romeo, languishing in despair and lamenting over his unrequited infatuation for Rosaline, a niece of Lord Capulet. Rosaline is described as incredibly beautiful but choosing to maintain her chastity. Persuaded by his comrades, Romeo attends the Capulet ball in the hopes of meeting and wooing Rosaline but instead, meets and falls in love with Juliet… and Rosaline, is simply forgotten. It is often thought that the role of Rosaline was created by the Bard simply to be used as an impetus to facilitate a meeting between the “star-cross’d lovers” but Joanna Erskine clearly had many thoughts to the contrary and has brought us this captivating narrative that tells the other side of the world’s most enduring love story.
When revisiting a classic Shakespearean story, particularly during the current zeitgeist, which has audiences and artists demanding and yearning for originality and provocation, there is an intrinsic obligation to bring something never-before-seen, never-before-done or never-before-imagined to the table. With Rosaline, although the central element is in telling the other side of this 400-year-old story, Joanna Erskine, in collaboration with whip-smart direction by Sophie Kelly, also brings a fresh, modern relatability that functions seamlessly. The dialogue is razor-sharp and witty, in a contemporary fashion but also maintains an elegant and bewitching aura that Shakespeare used to cultivate through classical text. The contemporary dialogue itself draws some striking parallels with Shakespearean classical text in that it flows with an inherent rhythm, has an alluring richness and depth and most notably, is used with impressive effect in the creation of vivid and intricately detailed imagery.
Aanisa Vylet is purely radiant as the titular character. She is energetic, emphatic and strong-willed yet uses vulnerability to immense effect to deliver an incredibly nuanced and heartfelt performance. When playing opposite the robust David Lynch (as the Friar), there is a potent dynamism that captures the attention of everyone in the room. The talented duo effortlessly command respect and engrossment with their commitment to the story and their connection.
Alex Beauman and Jeremi Campese complete the cast quartet as Romeo and Peter respectively. Alex Beauman played well as the idealistic lover but needed a more heightened certainty in the role. Jeremi Campese succeeded in portraying a depth and honesty in the expanded role of Peter (in the original story, he was just the personal servant to Nurse) but could have benefitted from playing a more layered complexity in terms of his motivations, particularly during some of the more crucial moments and actions he carries out during the production.
The immersive sound designer (Tegan Nicholls) once again demonstrates her prowess as she enriches the production with an eclectic fusion of music and sound that consolidates our journey into the world of Rosaline.
Director Sophie Kelly has done a stellar job of fusing all the artistic elements of this production into a meticulous end-product that jerks, veers, provokes and keeps us engaged and wondering until the end.
Like everyone (most likely), I had no memory of and definitely no interest in Rosaline in the original story. After seeing this production, I am now personally taking Erskine’s story as a true, canonical addition to Shakespeare’s original. All elements of the production including the work of the cast (particularly Aanisa Vylet) and creatives aided in lifting this production to an elite status. The plot fits so congruently that it is hard to argue against the truth of it. Erskine has an unparalleled flair for composing a compelling narrative interweaved with lush imagery, I cannot wait to see what she brings us next!
Venue KXT, Kings Cross Hotel (Kings Cross), 11 – 26th October 2019
Director Sophie Kelly
Playwright Joanna Erskine
Cover Image by Marnya Rothe
DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.