I have chosen to do a modern version of “Romeo and Juliet;” it will be set in the 21st century. I have decided to use all the language in the original play but create my own settings, use up to date clothes and a collection of music. I am going to relate to the text and use my own interpretation of the text to present the balcony scene (act2 scene2).
I have chosen to set the balcony scene in a theatre as I want to make sure that my ideas are purely my own. I feel that the recent version of “Romeo and Juliet” (featuring Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes) would influence my ideas if I’d decided to run my production as a film. I also feel that it’s more challenging running “Romeo and Juliet” as a theatre production as I’ve never seen a proper stage production of the play.
Since the nineteenth century, Juliet has been portrayed as an archetypal, ruined virgin, a naï¿½ve, innocent, young beauty who has been ravished before our eyes, first by life and then by death. Juliet is a spirited, lively girl with a mind of her own. She has even been described as a ‘mellow dramatic, heroine’ as she plays her life as if she were watching it on stage.
After researching Juliet’s character and looking at different ways in which people have interpretated her character, I have decided to use the stereotypical ‘nineteenth century’ Juliet. I believe that it’s very important to keep Shakespeare’s characters as he may have imagined them. I also think that it’s very important to keep to Juliet’s mentioned age in the play as her age is presented as an issue and appears more than once in the play.
Capulet: My child is yet a stranger in the world, / She hath not see
the change of fourteen years. / Let two more summers wither in their
pride / ere we may think ripe to be a bride.
Paris: Younger than she are happy mothers made.
Capulet: And too early marred are those so early made…
Here Capulet discusses with Paris Juliet’s age and says that she is too young to marry. He states that she is not yet fourteen, and so does the Nurse.
Nurse: She is not 14. / How long now to Lammas Tide? / Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be 14.
I would imagine that in the Elizabethan times, a man would have played Juliet. It also made me wonder weather Shakespeare would have imagined her to be dark haired and olive skinned or maybe he imagined her to be fair; after all, in the Elizabethan times, the more fair the more beautiful (typical English Rose). Even so I have chosen to have a dark haired and olive skinned Juliet, as this is my stereotypical version of someone who is Italian.
She is going to be a very young and dreamy character. Although she has a strong will she does not want to upset her parents or be disobedient. So much so that she feels that she has to marry Paris, and the only way to be with Romeo is to run away with him. Her parents are very strict and protective over there one and only daughter, we see this clearly when Paris tries to persuade Capulet that Juliet is ready to marry.
I have considered many costumes for Juliet when she first appears in the balcony scene, I have even considered having her dress in some pink bunny rabbit pyjamas and matching bunny slippers! I think that would have a slight contrast though to Romeo’s speech as he uses religious imagery to describe how pure and beautiful Juliet is (to Romeo). So she must look her best.
In the modern version of “Romeo and Juliet”(feat Leo and Claire) Juliet appears in her angel costume at the masquerade ball. I feel that the costume was very well suited too Juliet as she looked very angelic and innocent. Her character was showed well by the white dress, which, in its simplicity made Juliet look stunningly beautiful; without having to show any flesh or figure. There is no sex appeal about her, just pure beauty and class.
I wish to present my Juliet in the same way; so I have chosen her to wear a long, white night gown, with a white lace trim. The neckline will not show her bust but shall be a scooped, high line, with thick straps. Although Clare Danes wore only natural makeup in the film, it is essential for Juliet in my production to wear quite a bit of makeup so her features stand out on stage. My ‘Italian’ Juliet will have an olive skinned complexion, and Spanish red lips. Her cheekbones will be highlighted with a rose pink blusher, and her eyes will be accentuated with natural brown eye shadow and black eyeliner on top of the eyelids. She will have very dramatic, romantic eyes.
How old is Romeo? A question most people ask when casting such a character. However old he is; his age certainly affects the whole flavour of the play. If Romeo were played as young as Juliet then his youth would present him as an impetuous teenager. Indeed he seems helpless through his love for Juliet, as his meaning of life makes him a victim. ‘A young Romeo will have to work hard not to look like prototypes from babes in the Woods.’ (A quote by Kenneth McLeish author of “Shakespeare’s Characters”)
I feel that Romeo should be youthful but still older than Juliet. He is certainly several years older than Juliet, as he, Mercutio and Benvolio speak to each other as mature (although quite irresponsible) grown men. Romeo’s conversations with Mercutio and Benvolio present him in a self-conscious witty manner. Even his miserable love affair with Rosaline is made a subject not for real sighs but for repartee.
Juliet’s affect on Romeo makes him seem much younger than he actually is. He seems to lose his sophisticated grounded character and change to a very excitable young man, who has become fixated on Juliet or Juliet’s beauty as the case may be.
I have therefore decided that Romeo will be in his mid teens (sixteen or seventeen), certainly no older than eighteen. I feel that it will be easy enough to show what a sophisticated character he can be. Although the age gap between the characters may seem large, Juliet’s intensity and Romeo’s enthusiastic, excitable character should be enough to quite easily close the age gap between them. I think that it is well worth considering that Juliet may be quite a mature, young teenager and Romeo, a vivacious young man.
Romeo goes straight from the party to Juliet’s balcony, so he will obviously be still dressed in his masquerade outfit. When Leonardo Dicaprio played Romeo, he was dressed as ‘a knight in shining armour’. I thought that this was quite appropriate for Romeo as this is how Juliet sees him. He rescues her in a way from her arranged marriage and her over protective parents. Although I love the idea of Romeo dressed as a ‘knight in shining armour,’ I think I would like to explore my own ideas to further develop my character.
A comical way of presenting Romeo would be to have him dressed in a Spiderman outfit. Then he would literally climb up the balcony! Although I feel that this is a very interesting idea, I have gone against the idea of it being a bit of a black comedy, as I love the intensity of the scene. My desired atmosphere is crucial for the balcony scene.
Romeo shall wear a prince’s outfit. A gold crown and a white, long, cloak with shining, gold, armour underneath. This is to symbolise his position as Montague’s son. It also gives us the stereotyped version of a Prince. A Prince who fights for his princess, he has much charm and elegance about him.
Although I want to incorporate music in my production, I don’t feel that the balcony scene actually needs any music, as the silence and pauses between characters will create an exciting atmosphere, as we wait in anticipation, just in case Romeo gets caught! Although I have decided that there will be no music in the scene, I have enclosed a CD, which contains various, modern, tracks which I have considered for different scenes and which have inspired me.
The first track on the CD is called “clubbed to death,” and is by an artist named Rob Dougan. It is a very atmospheric piece of music, which I felt could be used to show the hatred between the two households, and to show the way in which they tore the lovers apart. I would use this piece of the music to present a fight scene maybe, although I feel that the track is too long, so I would probably half the time it ran for.
When I first heard the track I imagined a dance-drama, a contemporary piece of dance showing how the families led Romeo and Juliet to their fate through their hatred and bitterness. I think a scene like this with this piece of music would be extremely affective, especially if I was going to do a dance or musical version of the play.
Track two is an instrumental called “kissing you” which is an original track from the 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet. It takes place when Romeo first sees Juliet, when they first kiss and (as you will hear at the end of the track) when Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague. This would be the only piece of music that I would use for the balcony scene if any at all.
“Blurry,” is by a band called; ‘Puddle of mud.’ This song captured my emotions; I think it’s a very powerful track. It made me think about how both Romeo and Juliet would have felt. Lonely at times without each other, and angry and frustrated with their family. I don’t think I’d use this track for my stage production as I think it would be too hard for the audience to concentrate on the stage with such a heavy and loud track. It has helped me to imagine how Romeo and Juliet would have felt not being able to see a loved one. Indeed, this track has inspired me.
Track four is by Darren Hayes and is called “insatiable.” I imagined this playing at a very intense, tender, romantic scene, maybe after the wedding. I think this kind of scene would work better in a film though, as the camera can create an ambience through use of different angles, affects etc. I think this kind of scene would be too static in a theatre production.
Track five by Celine Dion and is titled “A new day has come.” I can imagine this being played just after the scene where Romeo and Juliet have committed suicide and the families come together to mourn. I imagine Capulet and Montague coming together for the finale, being joined at the end by Romeo and Juliet themselves, for a standing ovation!
I wish the stage setting to be very similar to when “Romeo and Juliet” was performed in the film “Shakespeare in Love.” The scene was actually set in the Globe theatre. I will have a very similar stage layout, for example, gallery, inner space, heavens. But the actual stage will be much larger stage. A theatre like the queens theatre in London would be perfect or any theatres in the West End.
I wish the stage to look more modern so I plan to do this by having the pillars; galleries etc built in another material. I have to consider how easy it would be to set up the scene so maybe something, which looks, clean and modernised; maybe a marble look material.
Here is a sketch of my stage settings:
I wish to have lots of flowers draped over the balcony’s and a trellis so Romeo can climb up to Juliet’s balcony. A water feature would also add to the scene to finish the ambience. I would also add French doors to Juliet’s balcony and white drapes to again modernise the scene.
A very unusual idea for the scene was to have people as the pillars, trees etc. Although I felt this would take the focus away from Romeo and Juliet and make the duologue ineffective. I think this would be worth thinking about if you were doing a gymnast or dance version of “Romeo and Juliet” or maybe even a musical. It would work well if the script was not used, as the objects (and Romeo and Juliet) would be brought to life by their surroundings.
I have made notations on the text to show where the lighting should fall and when. The lighting is very important as it shows what time of day it is. It adds to the ambience. For example, if it was too bright, it could take away some of the romance in the scene. I will use dim lights for this scene so we are still able to see the rest of the settings. I shall use brighter lights on the gallery, inner space, and water features when necessary, as this is where Romeo or Juliet will be situated on stage.
I have incorporated where each character should enter and be, next to the text. The proxemics is very important as this gives the spectres the right impression of the characters and the way the characters are feeling about the other person on stage. It easily increases the intensity of the stage by having two characters closer together.
The lighting physicality of the characters, proxemics, sound/music, pauses and silences all add to the scene to create a desired atmosphere. Weather its fear, passion or excitement; these things are a priority in any theatre production or film.
Romeo talks about his feelings for Juliet and tells us what he is thinking when he fist arrives at the balcony scene alone. This can be described as a sililoquey.
Romeo: It is my lady, o it is my love! / Oh that she knew she were! /She
speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that? /Her eye discourses, I will answer it…
Romeo is full of pea cocking wordplay, although a genuine feeling underlies it. We can quite see how easily he loses his sophistication through his excitement when he just sees Juliet. We quite easily find out Romeo’s thought and feelings through the soliloquy. This is quite a common drama technique when there is only one person on stage, especially in Shakespearean plays.
The duologues between characters let us know more about the characters as it focuses on the just the two people. We find that each character talks personally about them-selves or talks and describes more about that other person. This is particularly clear in the balcony scene, a duologue between Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo describes how beautiful Juliet is in the balcony scene, although he gives us an idealised description of her. He is absolutely mesmerised by her stunning looks.
Romeo: I profane with my unworthiest hand/this holy shrine, the gentle sin in this/My lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand/ To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss…/…O then dear saint, let lips do what hands do. /They prey; grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Romeo speaks this to Juliet when they first meet. He uses religious imagery
to show how (idealising Juliet) innocent and beautiful Juliet is. He almost sees her as superior to himself and demonstrates this by saying things like “With my unworthiest hand.” He calls Juliet a “Saint.” This seems to make the gap between them bigger. It almost adds to the fact that they are Capulet, and Montague. Also notice how Romeo is looking up to Juliet, as she is right up in the gallery.
Romeo sweeps Juliet off her feet with his charming, witty wordplay, and Juliet; she takes it all in. They both present very confident, eager, characters when they first meet, considering that they have only just met! This displays how unrealistic this whole play can be and how youthful the characters are. Shakespeare turns what could have been an over the top, teenage, mellow-dramatic play into one of the most compelling romance and tragedy’s anyone has ever written.
The fact that the whole play is over the top and unrealistically romantic makes you want to read it more! This is again why I feel that modern day versions of Shakespearean plays do not work if the language has been altered, as this is what makes his play so magical. His use of language (oxymoron’s, wordplay) brings the whole thing to life and has everyone gripping on to the edge of his or her seat.