Photo by Jenny Fisher
Last week, Mysterious Entity’s Romeo and Juliet: Superstar Ice Miners of Europa!!! (yes, the exclamation marks are necessary) landed in Peterborough.
Adapted by Kate Story from her short story “The Yoke of Inauspicious Stars” and directed by Em Glasspool, the play took the bard’s famous tragedy and turned it into a comic, tragic, scifi, anti-corporate, love story.
The show was staged at The Theatre on King, the up-and-coming black box theatre space built for intimate performances. The audience couldn’t have been far over 30 people.
The performance-side of the small room was painted icy white with hints of blue and included a bar made of water cooler bottles that could be lit up from behind, making it look like a collection of crystal bubbles, and a bed with fur blankets.
Because of sightlines however, the bed—the centre of the action for a number of crucial scenes—was difficult to view for a large chunk of the audience.
Costumes by Kate Story were fun, mixing steampunk (for the Caps) and a sort of cowboy gothic (for the Monties) with white and blue jumpsuits. It was refreshing to see a light-hearted futuristic show that wasn’t just tin foil and blinking lights.
The plot, besides the obvious, revolved around the rival corporations of Capisco and Monsanto mining fresh water on Europa to send back to Earth, devastated after war, nuclear fallout, and other nasty things. Romeo is the best ice miner on Europa until Juliet comes along.
The story dealt with Orwellian surveillance, exploitation of nature, celebrity culture, and a singing moon. It was a packed night.
The show was also highly physical, with excellent fight direction by Kenn Gibb, the small space of TTOK making the intensity of the action even more exhilarating.
The play was semi-Shakespearean, pulling lines from Romeo and Juliet as well as Shakespeare’s other plays and mixing them with modern lingo and some of Story’s own iambic couplets.
Story’s script also played with gender, with Paris as a lesbian lusting after Juliet and Prince as gender non-conforming (she was referred to with alternating he and she pronouns).
Furthermore, simply making Juliet a self-empowered miner instead of a repressed child brought an interesting new dynamic to the character.
As for the acting, Romeo (Ken Gibb) was played as surprisingly boyish. This amplified the comic elements of the play, but with a Juliet decidedly more mature, the initial wooing lacked something.
But when Gibb wasn’t being comic, finally the chemistry between the actors appeared.
Juliet (Sarah McNeilly) acted with extravagance, which again leaned more towards comedy than tragedy. Her confidence was engaging, however, and she did find real fragility and emotional depth in her nightmare of radiation poisoning monologue.
Paris (Em Glasspool) tread a fine line between uncomfortable lech and sympathetic lovesick soul, pulling it off gracefully.
Laurence (Dianne Latchford), a cross of Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse as a barkeep, was a fine mix between surly and tender-hearted, and gave her terrible advice to the lovers with perfect conviction.
But the show was stolen by two of the more minor characters. Prince (Kate Story) was the mysterious bar owner and much more—a looker and a listener, he seemed to have much more control over the dealings of the rival corporations than was ever explained. Romeo and Juliet, we know, I wanted Prince’s story.
And finally MAB—the Multi-Access Bionetwork (Hilary Wear), which was basically Facebook and other social media that talks to you from your wrist. Malfunctioning from the singing at Europa’s core, she becomes Queen MAB, the dark fairy spoken of in the original Romeo and Juliet. Wear was funny, strange, and captivating.
If you missed the show, Mysterious Entity is hoping to bring it back next year at Market Hall and to tour it through schools.
The show is definitely entertaining, I just hope to see the actors push themselves further in reprising the roles.
You can also read the original story in the story collection Carbide Tipped Pens, coming out in December through Tor Books.