I’ve recently blogged a few times about the Basilique Performing Arts Company’s productions, both the upcoming Paradise Lost and the current Romeo + Juliet. The latter is now into its final run for the current season, having just four more presentations to go during January and February. Lauded and acclaimed since opening in April 2013, this really is a show not to be missed, and I do encourage anyone who has not seen it to take advantage of the remaining four show dates and attend a performance; you will not be disappointed.
Those familiar with the filmography of Baz Luhrmann may spot from the production’s title that it carries something of a hat-tip towards his 1996 cinematic piece starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. However, this isn’t merely a transcribing of Luhrmann’s cult classic; this production more than stands on its own as a slick and creative retelling of the tale of tragic love and star cross’d lovers.
With a costume style carrying a distinctly mid-1940s USA look, complete with sharp suits, fedoras, brogues and automatic handguns but with a distinctly renaissance-inspired feel to the sets, the production has been beautiful conceived and directed by Canary Beck (who is also the narrator) and produced by Harvey Crabsticks. Dance and music lay at the heart of the production, the latter from the likes of Nat King Cole, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, Michael Buble, Jack Black, Carl Douglas, Moby, Duran Duran, The Indigo Girls, and Queen.
This eclectic soundtrack brilliantly enhances each scene, bringing to each a sense of mood which is very cleverly conceived and, in places, not a little mischievous. At the start of the performance, for example, Mercutio, standing-in for Benvolio, has his view that love is a simple matter of sexual appetite engagingly underlined in the opening number, Straighten-up and Fly Right as he seeks to lift the spirits of a downcast Romeo. Later, his showdown with Tybalt is played-out to Carl Davis’ Kung-Fu Fighting, which, despite the tragic outcomes of that confrontation and the one which immediately follows it, again underlines Mercutio’s irreverent outlook on life.
One also cannot mention the music within the play without mention of the choreography. This is simply exquisite, the dances clearly conceived and executed to suit the numbers to which they are danced, further lifting Romeo+Juliet into the realm of the extraordinary. Through the combination of dance and the accompanying soundtrack, the audience experiences the range of emotions reflected in the tale, such as both the passion Juliet and Romeo feel for one another, and the pain of unrequited love Paris feels towards Juliet. In the case of Paris in particular, the use of music and dance further serves to make him more of a sympathetic character than perhaps the original play allows.
The nods towards Luhrmann’s film are not limited to the name of this production, either, but are cleverly carried through several scenes. Note Juliet’s costume for the Capulet feast, for example, and the use of television sets between each set, which are reminiscent of Luhrmann’s use of news broadcasts to convey the broader strife between the two families. Other motifs from the film are also used with great effect in the production, most notably, perhaps, during Act V.
All told, the Basilique Performing Arts Company’s Romeo+Juliet is a remarkable piece which substantially raises the bar for performance art and drama in Second Life. Aso noted at the top of this article, if you’ve not already seen it, I cannot recommend it highly enough nor urge you strongly enough to make sure you do. Full kudos to all involved.
The last four presentations for the current run of the production will be:
- Saturday, January 25th, 13:00
- Saturday, February 1st, 13:00
- Saturday, February 8th, 13:00
- Friday, February 14th, 13:00
A Sneak Preview
Following the performance of Romeo+Juliet on Sunday January 19th, Canary and Harvey generously invited me backstage to the rehearsals area for the Company’s upcoming new production Paradise Lost: The story of Adam and Eve’s original sin, which opens in Spring 2014, and which currently has an open casting call for a number of roles.
While backstage, I was privileged to see a performance of three scenes from the new production. Sadly – although fully understandably – I was asked not to take any pictures while the cast were performing, so I cannot visually share just how impressive Paradise Lost will be. However, I can say, with hand firmly on heart, that the production further builds on the incredible work that has gone into Romeo+Juliet, and promises to be something extraordinarily special in Second Life when the curtain rises this spring.
It is evident that considerable effort has been put into refining and improving the techniques used within Romeo+Juliet, and an enormous amount of care and attention has again been put into developing choreography which carefully and precisely matches Mozart’s Requiem. This will definitely not be a production to miss, and I’m already keenly anticipating its opening.