Shakespeare’s R&J uncovers the essence of a classic

Revisiting an old project always carries with it a certain sense of joy and nostalgia, and that’s certainly the case for Kevin Sutley, who directs Kill Your Television‘s upcoming Shakespeare’s R&Jrunning at The Roxy on Gateway January 16 – 28.

Shakespeare’s R&J, by Joe Calarco, was the second Kill Your Television production, having taken place in 2002 with Kevin Corey, Nathan Cuckow, Chris Fassbender and Ron Pederson making up the four-person show. Kevin Sutley, who directed the original production and this reimagined production says, “It was a real bonding time for the five of us – the four actors and myself. It was a really fun, enjoyable experience with an end product we all felt very invested in and proud of.”

The upcoming Shakespeare’s R&J features four up-and-coming Edmonton actors: Oscar Derkx, Luc Tellier, Braydon Dowler-Coltman, and Corben Kushneryk telling the story of four male Catholic prep-school students, who escape their regimented lives by secretly meeting to read Romeo and Juliet, which has been banned by the school because of it’s sexuality and violence. As the boys get deeper into their roles, love is redefined and the boys learn more about themselves than they thought possible reading a forbidden play.

Kevin says,  “I love Romeo and Juliet, like a lot of people. It’s kind of the ultimate romance. So, to get to work with the story in a pared-down version with a four-person cast makes it a lot more accessible to a small, independent theatre company, since we don’t get to do too many Shakespeare productions. It’s also a play that I feel has a really positive message about the nature of love and gender and how we don’t need to get caught up in assigned roles.”

“One of my favourite memories from the first time we did this show is when you get to a point where you stop seeing boys and you start seeing Romeo and Juliet. It stops being about who the actors are, and it becomes about these iconic, romantic characters that we want to connect. We want them to be in love because we want that for ourselves.”

Working with the script again after 15 years, one of the things Kevin is most looking forward to is seeing how the audience reactions to the show will be different than in 2002. “I’m curious to see how audiences now, 15 years after our first production, react differently. I feel like we’ve progressed a lot with these sorts of ideas in that time, but having said that, there’s still a lot of intolerance in our societies… It’s not like we’ve solved these problems. In some ways, I think parts of our society is getting worse, so I think it’s still a timely message.”

Shakespeare’s R&J plays at The Roxy on Gateway January 16 – 28. Tickets are $18 – $22 through Theatre Network‘s box office.

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