Reflections on Romeo and Juliet

Mrs Katrina Riveros, Head of Department—Drama

Two households, both alike in dignity, will come together to stage one of the most iconic plays of all time for this year’s Senior Drama Production—William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The collaboration between Brisbane Girls Grammar School and Brisbane Grammar School’s Drama departments is exciting and long-awaited—much unlike that of the Houses of Capulet and Montague—and has enriched our co-curricular programs and resulted in a dynamic piece of theatre.

Shakespeare’s most famous play has been adapted, staged and critiqued countless times! From Hollywood reproductions to academic examination of its political philosophies, irrationality of the love between the young protagonists, and its reflection of social and cultural concerns of its time—we remain enamoured with the tragic tale, centuries after its creation.

Its themes of love, fate and violence, and familial and societal expectations, combined with the complexity of its characters sustains its universal appeal. Written in the 1590s, during a period of social and political upheaval in England, the play reflects societal and religious conflicts through the fractured relationship of the Montagues and Capulets, reinforcing the destructive nature of such division. While England was in the midst of widespread tensions, Europe was in its Renaissance period, a time of great ‘cultural and intellectual flourishing’, which Shakespeare explores through the concepts of love and fate (Better Tuition Academy, ND).

While we now appreciate the timeless appeal of such a complex, layered play, Romeo and Juliet was not initially a success (Better Tuition Academy, ND). In fact, it wasn’t until the 18th century that it was perceived as one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, defining his legacy as a writer and playwright, and inspiring thousands of reproductions.

It has been a privilege to assist Director, BGS’ Ben Newth, to bring such a contemporary vision to life. Our production reflects our young actors’ own lives through a contemporary vision that showcased their vitality and youthful exuberance through the highly physicalised action and modern street aesthetic.

Daniel Evans’ slick adaptation of the timeless play breaks down the barriers of the traditional text, while continuing to honour the poetry and power of Shakespeare’s bard, by boldly interjecting with modern vernacular and his trademark wit. The production’s contemporary take juxtaposes old with new, bringing a fresh take on the oh-so familiar story by slamming the traditional text, settings, and contexts up against a modern and recognisable era, where young people … well, rule.

The voices and perspectives of the youth are honoured and privileged in this re-telling. The original version’s parental characters are removed to frame this modern take within a young person’s autonomous space, privileging their world view and painting a reflective lens of current society.

Audiences will experience this contemporary fusion in the architectural and historic chapel that is the Great Hall; a building that holds such symbolism for BGS, as it is the first entry point and final farewell place for the boys. Sharing this significant hall with our girls represents a small part of the synergy and mutual respect that we delighted in throughout this collaboration. The production’s clash of tradition and modernity extends to the physical with a minimalist, contemporary set design positioned within the monolithic sandstone structure of the cathedral-like space.

Costuming the large cast has been both a joy and a challenge as we looked to capture the expression of carefree fun and youthful abandonment, while still paying homage to tradition. The creative team cleverly distinguished the opposing Houses through vibrant festival-like looks for the Montagues, against the slick street-aesthetic inspired costuming of the Capulets—with a contrasting Elizabethan ruff collar for both Houses.

It has been a privilege to work with our students to hone their understanding of the text, find their characters and detail the stagecraft for this ambitious work.

The tragic ending is not the message of this piece. Rather, out of the vibrant dance party scenes, audacious commentary and levity, emerges a real heart in this rendition. It reminds us that there is beauty and love to be found; that our young people are the future, and have dreams and emotions and life to experience. Of course, ultimately, it reminds us that regardless of setting or century, the themes and resonance of Romeo and Juliet are enduring.

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.



Better Tuition Academy (ND). Romeo And Juliet – Full Text Analysis. Better Tuition Academy.—full-text-analysis/by-william-shakespeare