He started out as an incomprehensible fellow but he sure has made a name for himself, hasn’t he? Romeo Montague, the leading lad in what is oft considered the greatest love story of all time (albeit a bit of a morbid one), has changed his look more times than Madonna has, at the artistic mercy of a thousand different actors, directors and producers.
He began as a wholesome, tight-wearing, Elizabethan bloke, proclaiming his “wherefore”s and “thou”s to audiences of royalty and peasants, prancing across English and Roman stages and confessing his love to men masquerading as Juliet. (Let us all be thankful that women are now allowed to act.)
Yes, Romeo was what the corset-wearing, straight-backed women of the sixteenth century would have deemed a hunk. Nowadays however, men in tights and puffy sleeves are rarely classed as ‘chick magnets’, rather as ‘freaks’, and so, to keep the Shakespearean spark alive, our beloved entertainers have made the adjustments deemed necessary by modernity.
After his noble beginnings in Shakespeare’s ‘Globe Theatre’, Romeo began to evolve, first appearing on the silver screen in 1968. Although he retained his traditional attire and romantically confusing dialect, it cannot be denied that this production was an enormous leap in the evolution of the two star cross’d lovers.
Some twenty-eight years later, Baz Lurhmann got his hands on a Romeo and Juliet manuscript, transforming it from a traditional drama into a flamboyant, time-confused amalgam of romance, drugs, Los Angeles violence and bizarre costuming. But from within this weird cocktail of cinematography arose a Romeo embodied by Leonardo Di Caprio and ready to steal the hearts of girls around the world.
2011 saw Romeo venture into the world of three-dimensional animation, starring in Kelly Asbury’s 3D production of Gnomeo and Juliet. And doesn’t Gnomeo just look dashing with his white beard and blue vest? I bet Shakespeare would be proud.
Now, there are countless Romeo and Juliet theatre productions that I could talk about but I’m just going to mention those that I’ve personally encountered.
Firstly, there is the Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company’s 2005 production, specifically catering to a youth audience and incorporating a shocking combination of pink hair, miniskirts, profanities and a lot of theatrical sweat. Performed in the style of physical theatre, the production was an intense and moving physicalisation of the love, passion and impetuousness that made the play so famous in the first place. Romeo, in this instance, was your average teenage boy, fed up with school and more often than not unruly.
Now it’s 2012 and Romeo’s latest makeover has manifested itself in the Queensland Theatre Company production of Romeo and Juliet. Played by Thomas Larkin, this Romeo has already sparked a little controversy in Brisbane, Australia, with its apparently ‘over sexualized’ advertisements. Nonetheless, it promises to be a fresh and affecting remake of Shakespeare’s original, with possibly the most attractive version of Romeo yet!
Yes, this timeless story of young love, with its main male personifying all that women want, has graced the world’s many stages and screens and will continue to evolve long into the future. Shakespeare certainly did do a good job of writing a great love story, didn’t he? What are your favourite versions of Romeo and his lover? Are there any enormous gaps in my timeline of his evolution?