MaltaToday | 04 May 2008 | Loveas counterculture

NEWS | Sunday, 04 May 2008

Love as counterculture

Romeo and Juliet’s take on intercultural dialogue. By Karl Schembri

Senseless hatred, thoughtless violence, feuding families and fatal love are the ingredients that will be grouping together actors from 10 diverse cultures in their interpretation of Romeo and Juliet to celebrate intercultural dialogue.
It will be a modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic where the thoughtless and breathless pace of the violence in the play breeds more violence and “trigger-happy rage”.
“Fear is the biggest motivating force driving society, but nothing motivated by fear has ever ended in good,” says artistic director Julie Saunders of London-based Theatre Studio West, which will be staging it at the Drama Centre. “Unlike most people in this society, Romeo and Juliet are not motivated by fear. They are fearless. The rules and laws imposed upon them are a suggestion of how to live. They choose to reject that suggestion and go against the rules.”
Saunders will be coming with her diverse troupe in July as part of the celebrations of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
“In his introduction to his 1971 play ‘Lear’, Edward Bond (who was in Malta in 2002 to direct drama workshops) says: ‘In trying to defend itself, society is bringing about its own destruction.’ That’s what’s happening in Romeo and Juliet and is, I feel, very relevant to our present times.
“Montagues versus Capulets, an inexplicable, unending hatred. Each family’s entire identity has become ingrained in this conflict and to release or give up the hatred would be as if they were giving up their identity. Against this backdrop, the love of Romeo and Juliet is played out, offering the chance of redemption and reintegration. They choose, out of fear, to defend the hatred, and they loose their children, in turn they loose their future.”
Saunders says it is quite easy to find the contemporary in Shakespeare’s masterpieces.
“He was a master of taking the ideas that most humans encounter in their lives regardless of when they happened or existed and interweaving them into his plays. Feuding families, old hatred, racism, mindless violence, love, politics, power and religion. What could be more contemporary? The themes and emotions of his plays are timeless.”
Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other is as out of place in the context of their society, as it would be today, Saunders adds.
“However, I think we have an innate need to believe in love and all its possibilities – our capacity to love and need for love. Shouldn’t one of effects of a good production of Romeo and Juliet somehow awaken the young person in us and make us believe the intensity of love again?
“Our version of Romeo and Juliet is performed by an exceptionally talented young cast; it is a play that is by turns delicate and intense, uproariously funny with our Caribbean Nurse, bohemian Friar and lecherous Mr Capulet. It’s heartrendingly sad and has the vitality of youth and the genuine poignancy that I think Shakespeare intended. In the end all we’ve tried to do, as said in our London programme, is to ‘tell the story with truth against a backdrop of simplicity’.”

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Love as counterculture


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