Perhaps the most radically different adaptation of all has been Ben Power’s A Tender Thing. This September, Adelaide’s Growling Grin Productions is proud to present the South Australian premiere of Power’s uniquely different and emotionally powerful play at Star Theatres Hilton.
Michael Boyd, while working as Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the mid 2000’s, was struck by the number of mature actors who had commented to him they’d always wished that in the early stages of their professional careers they’d had the opportunity to play one of the young lovers in Shakespeare’s immortal love story, Romeo and Juliet.
Boyd also recognised that the central themes within the lovers’ relationship are timeless…and so a seed of an idea was planted. The RSC commissioned up- and-coming young Dramaturg Ben Power (later to become Associate Director of the National Theatre), to produce a new version of Romeo and Juliet, this one with much older central characters.
Devoid of all Romeo and Juliet characters except the lovers themselves, set in modern times and at a much later time in life, A Tender Thing portrays a moment in the sunset of a lifetime, a tender, often funny, linguistically exhilarating and ultimately poignant story of love and sacrifice and of making profound choices. Through remixes and context changes of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet text, together with some lines from his other plays and sonnets, a strikingly different love story emerges. Unlike the teenage lovers of Shakespeare’s original story, this Romeo and Juliet have been together for decades.
The couple has long ago endured the loss in infancy of a child, something that has drawn them even closer, but now they must decide how to face another daunting life event. It throws them into conflict and audiences will instantly be struck by the fact that in contemporary real life the very same desperate dilemma polarises us all.
A Tender Thing was produced for the first time on stage to critical acclaim, by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009, and has since played worldwide.
Olivia Jane Parker, Artistic Director for Growling Grin Productions is Director of the company’s September SA Premiere of the play. Parker has a passion for producing edgy, meaty and even experimental work, as demonstrated in the company’s first production, the cult psychological thriller and movie-turned-play Closet Land, in 2013.
Said Parker of A Tender Thing, ‘We treat the Shakespearean text with the upmost love and respect, however the actors speak in a slightly more naturalistic style than the original, due to the contemporary setting of this re-contextualised play.’
Playing Romeo is Lindsay Dunn, who audiences will remember for his recent critically acclaimed performance as Dogberry in the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s Much Ado About Nothing. Lindsay has worked in theatre since the 1970’s, including children’s theatre and also in radio, film and television. Lindsay has played many stage roles, including the Father in Shout! opposite the legendary Toni Lamond.
Lesley Reed is Juliet. Her theatre career stretches back to the early 80’s. More recently, audiences will recall her in the role of the Nurse in the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s Antigone. Lesley’s acting experience also includes film, radio and many television commercials. Lesley is also a theatre reviewer and South Australian correspondent for Stage Whispers.
A Tender Thing is a play for two speaking actors only, however Director Olivia Jane Parker has included two additional performers, Benjamin Orchard and Ruby Bown, who represent Romeo and Juliet in the past. Ben Orchard is an experienced actor and a founding partner in Growling Grin Productions with Olivia Jane Parker. He is also a theatre reviewer. South Australians will instantly recognise Ruby Bown as one of the staff from the restaurant 28 Street (Adelaide’s entry inChannel Seven’s Restaurant Revolution). Ruby is also an accomplished dancer.
‘A Tender Thing is a short play,’ said Olivia Jane Parker, ‘so incorporating additional characters into the story enhances the history of the main characters for modern audiences, drawing a comparison between the mature couple facing life-altering events and the starry-eyed young lovers as they were when they first met and married.’
The immortal lines of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet ask, ‘Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.’ Now Adelaide has its chance to experience the humour, passion and tragedy of Ben Power’s magical play, which acknowledges the timelessness of those words.
WHERE: Theatre Two, Star Theatres, 145 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton.
WHEN: 7.30 pm, September 8-12.
BOOKINGS: www.startheatres.com.au or call 8234 1800.
TICKETS: Adults $25 (early bird $20), Concession $20 (early bird $15).