A Tender Thing, an original play written by Ben Power, is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The play is currently making it’s North American debut at the Belfry Theatre, starring Peter Anderson as Romeo and Clare Coulter as Juliet.
The beginning of the play has a light-hearted tone; Romeo spends much of the time early in the play declaring his love for Juliet. Anderson uses exaggerated physicality such as dancing erratically and treating the major prop, Juliet’s bed, as a sort of jungle gym, which is fun and comedic to watch. The exuberance of Anderson’s Romeo makes a clear statement of his love for Juliet, and it is romantic and touching to witness this couple in their later years looking back on their times together. Anderson and Coulter have a well-balanced chemistry, which allows the audience to easily believe that they have been together as long as their characters have.
The light-hearted tone featured at the beginning of the play sets up expectations that perhaps the rest of the play will have the same tone; however, the play delves into the darkness of the couple getting older, as their bodies weaken and they deal with illness. The shift to a more serious and somewhat depressing tone was not completely out of place, but did feel jarring when compared to the earlier tone of the play.
The staging of the play was sparse, with a bed on wheels and a backdrop of blue with a giant white door, but it fit with the somewhat mystical feeling of the play. Although, at times it was difficult to tell exactly what time in the characters’ lives the actions were taking place. The staging of the play did not make the division of scenes clear either; it was confusing whether the action taking place was happening in a different scene or day.
A syringe was placed at centre stage at the beginning of the play and, despite it’s minute size, I found it somewhat distracting, as it was easy to wonder and expect why it was so deliberately placed. It wasn’t until the end of the play that the prop was used, and it could have easily been kept out of sight until it was needed. The ending of the play does not vary greatly from the original Romeo and Juliet. So because the rest of the play does move away from it’s source material, while the end is touching, it feels a bit out of place.
The play is worthy of a watch, particularly due to the chemistry created between Anderson and Coulter; however, with a few tweaks to tighten up the staging and create an easier-to-follow timeline, this play could be much better.