Juliet writes her own story: Juliet: A Revenge Comedy. A Fringe review

Pippa Mackie in Juliet: A Revenge Comedy, Monster Theatre.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Juliet: A Revenge Comedy (Stage 36, La Cité Auditorium)

“I don’t think I’m in Verona any more,” says Juliet. No kidding. Funny how possibilities for travel seem to multiply when you don’t die on purpose, at 13, over a guy you met two days before.

In this clever, witty new show from Vancouver’s Monster Theatre — celebrating 20 years at the Edmonton Fringe — Juliet finds herself on an action adventure in Scotland, Denmark, Egypt. She’s pried herself loose from the untimely death written into the narrative of the Shakespeare tragedy she’s stuck in. And getting sprung, a ‘what was I thinking?’ moment, gives the girl new perspective.

In the sassy new comedy by Ryan Gladstone and Pippa Mackie, both in the cast, Juliet assembles a posse of Shakespeare women who kill themselves in Shakespeare tragedies. She meets fierce, homicidal Lady Macbeth, Ophelia who goes nuts (“when there is literally no narrative reason for it”) and drowns herself, and Cleopatra, fixated on leaving this world and entering the eternal one via snake bite. And together this unlikely sisterhood hunts down the author who’s prescribed their fates. ? Rewriting Shakespeare tragedy: how insurrectionist is that? 

“I’m not dying for you any more,” declares the plucky Juliet. Her creator, the greatest writer of all time as he himself says, is appalled: “But you’re one of my greatest inventions. Top 10 for sure.”   

Gladstone himself plays the Bard with a self-satisfied smirk about his collected works, “the best-selling book of all time” (well, nearly). Mackie is very amusing as Juliet, who discovers the pre-teen within. And Carly Pokoradi is a riot in the high-speed quick-changes between Lady M, Ophelia, Cleopatra, and ‘brave new world’ Miranda from The Tempest.

The fun of this smart show, much appreciated by a cheering full house, is the barrage of Shakespeare references and contemporary barbs, the feminist drive of it, and the ingenious cheap-theatre stagecraft devised by director Gladstone.

Monster Theatre has a 20-year track record in setting huge topics (Canadian history, War and Peace, Jesus, the wives of Henry VIII) in motion, and running really really fast with them while juggling. This is one of the best. Give yourself a treat.

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