Review: R&J (The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat, 2016)
All-male Romeo and Juliet adaptation sizzles in gutsy Malaysian premiere.
Written by Joe Calarco | Directed by Jeff Kevin
Starring Arief Hamizan, Aaron Al-Fateh, Qahar Aqilah, Malik Taufiq
Four, uniformed young men in an institution sneak around to read Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet. Despite fear of discovery, they break house rules and begin acting out the play, leading to growing suspicion for one another. Soon enough, they find themselves dangerously close to the feelings that led Shakespeare’s characters to their tragic end. It’s hard to imagine Joe Calarco‘s critically-acclaimed adaptation hitting Malaysian shores, let alone pull through with flying colours. But continuing KLPAC’s commendable penchant for subversion on the main stage, R&J premiered on Pentas 2 with gusto last week. Forming strong first impressions are Paul Hasham‘s narrow, gravel-filled moat which separates audience from stage, and Boy‘s cross of light gleaming across a bookcase. Expectations soar right off the bat. Its actors however manage to hold their own, let down only by Aaron Al-Fateh‘s oft-unintelligible diction — particularly troublesome for a performance utilising at least 95% of hard Shakespearean text. Young performer Arief Hamizan notably shines, providing access to the play’s source material with commitment and eloquence. Directed by Jeff Kevin, R&J commands attention with its smart look, surrealistic execution and rapid flurry of daring action. Nobody’s tiring of Shakespeare 400 anytime soon.
R&J takes place at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre until 17 April. For more information and , head over to their official website! Featured image by Ridzuan Rashid.
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