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Friday, June 17, 2022


(Above: Dumo Cele as Romeo & Keryn Scott as Juliet. Pic by Peter Litchkus)

Westville Boys’ High School is currently presenting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with a cast from WBH and Westville Girls’ High.

The director is the one and only Steven Stead who teaches drama at both schools and who creates magic with every production he’s involved in.

However, school productions are far more challenging, having to deal with the schools’ curriculum and availability of the learners. This play took close on four months to develop.

In his programme notes, Stead says: “It is the ideal play to do with young actors, who can identify with the characters and their situations, and have the prerequisite physical abilities for the many action sequences, fights, and dances. While the language is complex and challenging for twenty-first century teenagers, it is meaty and magical, and it has been a joy watching these actors devour the glorious words and embrace these powerfully driven characters.”

When I was organising tickets, Stead said he wanted me to be in the front row. However, when I got to the Roy Couzens Theatre, I suggested I went in the lower door to the theatre to reach the front row. He looked a bit surprised but then said: “This entrance is best. You’ll see what I mean.”

I certainly did because Stead had cleverly worked his magic to create a stage large enough to handle the close-on 30 performers at one time.

He had divided the audience chairs and pushed them to either side of the room against the walls, leaving the normal top seating in place. Thus, the performance area took in all three raised levels. This created a wonderful sense of being part of the action, especially in the crowd scenes. It also gave a challenge for the performers to remember that there were audience members on three sides of them, instead of only “in front”. 

Placed in the normal stage area, the actual set  - designed and built by the ultra-talented Greg King - represents the side of a castle including a gap to create the famous balcony.

The fight scenes were spectacular and all kudos to Stead's choreography. Daisy Spencer handled the choreography for the elegant dance at the Capulet Ball.

At the start, when young Alwande Hlangwane bounces in, ear-phones firmly in place and bopping to a jaunty piece on his cellphone, you think this might be a modernised version of the play. However, we are quickly moved to Medieval Verona as the cast appears in splendid costumes, many of them created by Terrence Bray for KickstArt’s excellent production of Camelot.

The basic story-line is that there is a long-term feud between the Capulets (Juliet’s family) and the Montagues (Romeo’s family). Arguments in the town square often erupt into sword fights and during one of these, Tybalt (a Capulet), gets killed. The Prince of Verona banishes Romeo and the play comes to a tragic end.

We first meet Romeo as a lovelorn young man in love with Rosalind. However, one sighting of Juliet and Rosalind goes out the window. Juliet is equally smitten and they meet in secret (this is where the famous balcony scene comes in) and eventually get married.

While Dumo Cele (Romeo) and Keryn Scott (Juliet) handle the lead roles with impressive performances, all kudos is due to the entire cast for handling some difficult scenes with maturity and sensitivity.

(Right: Thando X Mzimela as Mercutio. Pic by Peter Litchkus)

However, the finest performance for me came from Thando X Mzimela as Mercutio who really stole the show. Other notable performances came from Amahle Tembe as the Nurse, Luvo Mthethwa as Tybalt and Jethro Milne as Paris.

Sound designer Brandon Bunyan has all cast members wearing microphones which keep the voice levels even while drawing all the humour, passion and energy that the script demands.

The theatre world will hopefully get back on its feet in the near future and be ready to welcome all this excellent new talent.

The cast is highly blessed to have worked with such a talented and professional team which also includes Michael Taylor-Broderick, Evan Roberts and Shanthi Naidoo.

The show is deservedly sold out for the rest of its run which finishes on June 19, 2022. Keep your eyes open for another Steven Stead production and don’t miss it!! - Caroline Smart