by Lynn on October 12, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont

Based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

“Ideator”?? and Director, Jackie Gosselin

Set and costumes by Pierre-Ėtienne Locas

Lighting by Martin Sirois

Composed and soundscape by Pierre Guy Blanchard

Cast: Rosalie Dell’Aniello

Jérémie Earp

Agathe Fouçault

Rémy Savard


I think this is a terrific production. The story is provocative; the action is hugely accomplished and the subtlety of having the cast of four so depend on each other, which is how a play is done, is really engaging.

 The Story. You know the story. I know you know the story. What if Romeo and Juliet….from Young People’s Theatre asks us to consider what if things in the play were different and it ended with Romeo and Juliet living and not dying?

The Montagues and the Capulets hate each other and no one remembers why but the feud continues.  So writer/director Jackie Gosselin asks us to consider that since Romeo and Juliet manage to fall in love, even though they are from the warring families: Juliet from the Capulets, Romeo from the Montagues, why can’t the families use better judgement and look deeper than the feud and get along?

Gosselin asks us to consider that Romeo was supposed to get a letter that told him that Juliet was going to take a potion that would make her look like she was dead, but then Romeo would come in time to see her wake up and they could then run off together. As we know, he missed getting the letter.

What if we went back and he actually got the letter. He would arrive and see her unconscious but know she was not dead. Then they could run off together.

Gosselin also asks: what if Romeo, Tybolt (on the other side) and Mercutio, Romeo’s friend, did not have a sword fight in which Tybolt and Mercutio didn’t die and so Romeo wouldn’t be banished.  So Gosselin in a way asks us to consider what we know about the play and what if much of the stuff was changed to result in a happier outcome.

The Production. First there is a voice-over (Christopher Gaze) telling us that everybody knows the story of Romeo and Juliet for the most part. The voice is calm, deep, comforting and assuring.  We know Romeo and Juliet die at the end of the play.  But what if things could be changed.

Then the lights go up on two overturned red staircases set on a platform that revolves, and we can see there are four bodies on the stage (two men and two women:  Rosalie Dell’Aniello, Jérémie Earp, Agathe Fouçault and Rémy Savard).

Gradually they get up, put the two staircases upright and introduce themselves: Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio  (Romeo’s cousin) and the last character is a horse. That lovely joke keeps us on our toes.

This company called DynamO Theatre uses physical theatre, namely gymnastics for the most part to underscore the story. They each take turns switching characters.  A woman might say she is Romeo or a man might say he is Juliet. The relationships of the characters change too because as they flip off the stairs or reach out for a pose, the other actors support them or hold them so they don’t fall. Trust is a huge part of the physicality of the work, but it also works for the characters; each character has to trust that the others are out for their best interest. I thought that was terrific.

There is a sword-fight between two men only they mime the fight because they aren’t holding swords. Situated on both sets of stairs are the two women holding swords.  One clicks her two swords together rapidly suggesting the fight. The other slides her swords together each time the men on the stage mime that the two men are separating while their swords slide away. Brilliant.

Then the performers alternate fighting with the swords and perform an actual sword fight.

They are really accomplished in sword-fighting. The dilemma facing the characters is whether or not they continue the feud and continue fighting. How they solve this is one of the most moving parts of the production.

 Comment. Ok while it’s assumed that most people know about Romeo and Juliet, do you need to know the story carefully? The voice over is pretty clear in assuming the kids know it, but a refresher wouldn’t hurt.

I think there a larger issue here than just what if Romeo and Juliet didn’t die at the end, but something changed and prevented it? It gets kids, nine years old and up, to think in a different way.  It asks them how to solve the problem of blind animosity that goes on for years without knowing why and to find a way to make peace without embarrassment.

I think this is a terrific production. The story is provocative; the action is hugely accomplished and the subtlety of having the cast of four so depend on each other, which is how a play is done, is really engaging.

Young People’s Theatre presents:

Opened: Oct. 10, 2018.

Closes: Oct. 19, 2018.

Running Time: 60 minutes.

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1 Maurice Roy October 23, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Dear Ms. Slotkin,
Just a word of thanks for your nice review of the production. We really appreciated your insight into the production and the creative process.
I also wanted to ask your permission to translate and share your review with other theatre goers and presenters.
Should you be interested in following us, I could add your name to our (French language) newsletter.
Maurice Roy