Artistic Director of Lost Dog Ben Duke returned to the Nuffield Theatre following his hugely successful production of Paradise Lost last year, only this time he didn’t come alone. Lost Dog took on the task of exploring one of Shakespeare’s best-known works in their performance titled Juliet and Romeo: A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage. In their own words this “duet reflecting on the realities of relationship” was presented by Duke along with Solène Weinachter as a preview show in their production week which they chose to spend here at Lancaster.
From the get go this was promised to be an enjoyable show, something made evident from the unusually packed Nuffield theatre. The appeal of the show is obvious as the production catches up to Romeo and Juliet thirty odd years after their marriage and the events of Shakespeare’s famous play. Only things aren’t quite as they had planned. We join them as they use the audience as a collective marriage counsellor and admit to and explore the various areas of their failing marriage.
This is a production where Romeo chooses not to die, to live on without Juliet, only to then have her wake up a few seconds later and then have to face the realities of what lies ahead of them in their lives together. The one day a handy playwright comes along whose name might be familiar who decides to fictionalise their lives. From there the two of them find that they can’t seem to live up to the fictionalised image of their younger selves, of the impossible passion of their beginnings, leaving them longing for a time that never even existed in the first place.
Throughout this piece on the downfalls of relationships Lost Dog does manage to inject humour remarkably well, one example that comes to mind is of Juliet’s Leonardo Di Caprio fantasy, an obvious allusion to the famous Baz Luhrmann’s film. There’s also the awkward teenage fumbling and dancing to show their love, showing the more realistic version of their story. Even their words are more suited to reality instead of fiction as no verse is used, instead it’s a lot of awkward and upsetting confessions. The stage itself is fairly bare, only decorated with minimal furnishings and enclosed by what looks like the fences of a playground, yet another clue to their obsession with their lost youth.
The songs used in this performance perfectly accompanied the emotional journey of the characters from the happy and optimistic Ain’t no Mountain High Enough right through to the hopelessness of Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life. The standout song of the performance however was undeniably the final one as Cat Power’s desperately mellow Wild is the Wind sees Juliet’s sad and alone on stage, begging for love in a morose solo that certainly packed an emotional punch.
From the full body explorations of weight and balance of their dancing to the honest and authentic moments between the two actors this piece was truly enjoyable to watch unfold. The concept of a Romeo who feels nothing and a Juliet who can’t seem to let go of the fantasy of Shakespeare’s world was always going to be an interesting one and Lost Dog handled it wonderfully.