Stevey Hunter’s Fat Juliet is a rollicking, playful twist on Romeo and Juliet full of rapidly-changing visual images and pop songs and dance.
Already sold out, a few more seats have been added for this co-production by Eastern Front Theatre and Shakespeare by the Sea at Alderney Landing Theatre, Dartmouth, until Oct. 31. (Box office is 902-461-8401).
This 75-minute show would be perfect for teens in its celebration of self-love and self-acceptance whatever one’s parents or peers or inner voices may say. The multi-media experience with its comical swirl of rapid-fire imagery in cartoons, projections and photographs is as visually entertaining as TikTok.
The teen energy and angst is wonderfully real in Juliet’s fluffy, pink bedroom defined by a giant four-poster bed with a backdrop of a window with ever-changing light. Here Juliet, played by writer Stevey Hunter, is just turning 16 and longing for her first kiss. For her entire life her mother has told her she is too fat and has devalued her to the point of disguising her birthday party as the annual Capulet pool party.
Hunter’s Juliet is feisty, feminine and highly convincing as a frustrated 16-year-old tossing about in her sugary, princess dress and texting on her bejeweled iPhone. Shakespeare’s nurse has become Angel (Lou Campbell), a loving individual and good friend no longer employed by the Capulets. Nathan Simmons is Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, a bouncy, lovable youth.
Director Kat McCormack and her actors capture all the excitement and purity of young love in Shakespeare’s words; the hybrid of 2021 and 1597 language works well. The “It was the nightingale, and not the lark” speech is as achingly lovely as always.
Hunter’s version has a Paperbag Princess twist and thankfully removes the tragic deaths from the original. Shakespeare’s tragic, life-altering sword fight between Romeo and Tybalt is a hilarious, slow-motion pillow fight.
This show has a complex and amazing design in timing, music and visual technology. On the creative team are: scenic designer Ell Zagar; costume designer Everette Fournier whose colourful looks fit Zagar’s storybook set; lighting designer Jessica Lewis; composer and sound designer Jackson Fairfax-Perry of the Indie-Pop band Hillsburn; video and projection designer Christian Ludwig Hansen; illustrator Mollie Cronin(@art.brat.comics), whose charming and comic cartoons of different female bodies are projected above Juliet; choreographer Zomi Tombing and violinist Rosanna Burrill with additional sound by Peter Sarty.
Fat Juliet recalls Robert Munsch’s children’s stories with heroines and scenarios that turn expectations on their head in a funny, boisterous and meaningful way. Let’s hope this show can be remounted. Let’s hope for more plays from Hunter, a smart writer with a good eye for comedy and an honesty in speaking truths.