Have you ever wondered what would happen if our dear Romeo and Juliet—time’s star-crossed lovers—never took their lives together? Or better yet, what dominoes would fall if Juliet were to live on and carry her lover’s children? Well, Stolen Cactus’ R’n’J: The Untold Story of Shakespeare’s Roz and Jules playing at the Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, is here to answer all your hypotheticals in their alternate, updated story of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet.
Set against the modern backdrop of the 21st century, a distressed Juliet pauses just before her dagger can find its sheath. It is the all too familiar chime of a text message resounding from Romeo’s cellphone. And what is worse than attempted suicide? Rosaline’s saucy love letters popping up on the screen. Joined together by a man they both learn wasn’t quite the gentile lover he’s made out to be, Roz and Jules band together to clear reputations and heal family strifes instead of running from their problems.
Although the idea of an updated Romeo and Juliet sounds timeless, it must be done flawlessly to be respected by both young and old. The intricate planning and passion behind R’n’J is obvious, however, its script is already aged and its execution is messy. Instead of modernising all the dialogue, the show sits at a strange inbetween state, vacillating unequally from the classic text to modern social media buzzwords like ‘fam,’ ‘turnt,’ and an extensive use of emojis.
This identity crisis of the script unfortunately translates to its performance as well. Although very committed and energetic, the actors cannot make up for the show’s abrupt changes in mood and theme, switching from the heartbreak of a dead lover, to gossiping with the girlfriends. Unfortunately, this causes the important subjects like teenage pregnancy and abortion to be overshadowed by crass jokes and outdated slang.
On the other hand, R’n’J does a marvelous job of incorporating lights and projection. The pre-filmed segments offer a great insight into the context of the modern/classic world the actors are trying to convey, and are wonderfully produced with convincing visual effects. However, this contrasts again with the low production value of the staged scenes, including the costumes which are reminiscent of classic designs, yet don’t translate into modern fashion.
Overall, R’n’J presents a somewhat unpolished, yet heartwarming production of a classic tale, twisted. It offers an insight into the ‘what-ifs’ we have all pondered about, and is quite the outrageous show to experience.