Globe to Globe: Romeo and Juliet in Portuguese (Brazil)

Grupo Galpão’s production was Romeo and Juliet: The Comic Opera. The company did much more singing than speaking, and Juliet (Fernanda Vianna) was a ballerina while Romeo (Eduardo Moreira) teetered on stilts. When I walked in I was extremely pleased to see they were running it without an interval, which implied both a quick running time and a tight production.

Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz
I’ve seen a few reviewers complaining that this production didn’t have emotional heft in its final act. It’s true that it was light and frothy for the first two-thirds, which is how I think the play should be. Romeo and Juliet is a comedy until it all goes horribly wrong, and the audience should be laughing and having a good time until suddenly the bodies start thumping onto the stage.

It’s possible because I don’t really care about characters who aren’t Juliet or Benvolio, but I didn’t mind that the last act was a bit rushed and not very weighty. Romeo and Juliet’s parting scene was where the real crux of the tragedy happened in this production, and everything else after that was just mopping up.

When the audience walked into the Globe, the stage was very densely set up. There were chalk outlines downstage where Juliet and Romeo would eventually die, and a beater car decorated with carnival flowers parked on the stage – which was awesome. In the first scene, a schoolgirl entered, who I thought was Juliet; she met up with two friends, who run into a group of rivals; they staged a shoot-out.

The character of Shakespeare (Antonio Edson) was introduced and acted as chorus. He also shepherded the play into place: he nodded approval when Romeo looked over his shoulder to check whether it was all right to kiss Juliet, and caught him after he falls backwards, smitten, still on his stilts.

Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz

Paris didn’t appear onstage, and Tybalt and Benvolio were heavily pared down. Lady Capulet took over for Lord Capulet in every scene except when they think Juliet is dead.

Juliet was gorgeous, playful and reflective. When Lady Capulet called her she entered en pointe, and she delivered the balcony scene out of the backseat of the car while waiting for her nurse to drive her home from the party. She and Romeo didn’t have much chemistry, unfortunately, but their parting scene in which they sang a duet and Juliet took her hair down for the first time was genuinely poignant.

Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz

The relative weightlessness of the tragedy in the last act created the impression that the citizens of Verona don’t actually care very much. This could be the result of years of the feud – although the families agree to make peace, it doesn’t take, and the populace danced off the stage in the same way, and to the same tune, they danced on. The flippant Brazilian street theatre style was great for the first half, but also gives the impression that the deaths of Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet have splashed off the back of the city, and nothing has really changed.

Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz

Apparently it’s a very popular production, and has been at the Globe before; I don’t know if it’s worth all that, but it’s nice to see the play given the light, flip treatment. It is a play about silly teenagers (and one surprisingly thoughtful teenager), and although the ending is a tragedy it isn’t the kind of tragedy the characters think it is.

I saw Globe to Globe’s Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe on May 19, 2012.

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