Monday, May 10, 2010

The Juliet Journals: Please Come Home


digital collage 12ins x 12ins

best viewed larger HERE

This morning, Mudlark Production's Charles Hunter tweeted: "the last few days of SuchTweetSorrow. Can we do Tragedy on Twitter?" For those who have been avidly following the Twitter retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it's a daft question: many of us are already emotionally wrung out and hung out to dry on the line with the washing. That's one of the joys of this production: the scary, bottomless depth of it. The director, writers, and cast's ability to convey and engender in their audience, such a vast range of emotions and levels of meaning, through sporadic Tweets of 140 characters or less. It's astonishing, but no less than we should expect of a Royal Shakespeare Company production.

The version Romeo and Juliet that we are witnessing is, amongst many other things, an angry, often frenetic exploration across the messy landscape of Loss. When we first meet them, the three Capulet children are each, in their own way, damaged by the traumatic death of Susan, their mother. Jess, the oldest, is over-responsible and has taken on the role of emotionally parenting her siblings. Following his mother's death, Tybalt suffered even more loss when he was sent away to boarding school and his unresolved anger knows no bounds. Juliet's sheltered, compliant life is about to be torn apart as hormones blow the lid off her grief. Beyond the Capulet family, Mercutio, in effect, an orphan, as his unloving parents have gone to live in the South of France, fills the emotional vacuum by becoming a surrogate member of the Montague family and he loves Romeo as a brother. Romeo falls in love with Juliet, leaving Mercutio feeling abandoned by his mate. In turn, Romeo looses his friend when Mercutio loyally defends the Montague name against out-of-control Tybalt who kills him and is then himself accidentally slain by Romeo. Laurence Friar's desire to reunite the warring Capulet and Montague families is almost certainly a misdirected attempt to deal with his own loss and regret: his father is dead; he has turned his back on a shady past but still carries a torch for Susan Capulet, whom he secretly adored. Whatever their motives and despite their best efforts, Laurence and Jess must ultimately witness and feel in some way responsible for the deaths of all the young people whose lives they have desperately sought to protect.

The intimacy of Twitter enables followers to engage with the play's characters on a very intense level and we've certainly had our minds toyed-with: our belief systems and loyalties storm-tossed from one Tweet to the next. And then, ready to prod us, whenever we get too comfortable with our sympathy for someone's dilemma, there's always Jago, the malevolent, disaffected adolescent lurker, lingering around like the bad smell of rubbish bins during a garbage strike, reminding us that this drama portrays the lives of spoiled, rich kids. Admirably, the actors don't beg us to love them either. Jules is charming but complex and not easy to like: we first meet her, ten years after the death of Susan Capulet, a teenager with unresolved abandonment issues, who has created a perfect, romantic version of the mother she lost when she was six years old. Let's face it, had her mum lived, Jules would, almost certainly, now be a rebellious daughter of divorced parents, going through the usual mother/daughter love/hate ritual. She has coped with her loss in the best way she can but she is not equipped to make good choices. Instinctively drawn to Romeo, the boy that her family will most disapprove of, her intense love is accompanied by equally intense fears that she will loose him. Whilst dealing with these conflicting emotions, Jules is told, not only that her brother is dead, but that the love of her life has killed him. Her response to the news is denial: the first stage of grief, followed by violent emotional regression: back to the age when she experienced her first traumatic loss. From now on in, none of the others are emotionally equipped to reach her. This is where I've chosen to re-join Jules: a place where all the teenage romance has been stripped away, leaving only a frightened little girl who just wants her brother to come home.

Juliet's previous journal page can be viewed HERE


Annick ~ Boo said...

Lumi, I love your retelling of the story. Almost as good as actually getting to read it on Twitter, which is quite out of my reach. I haven't heard of anything similar in this part of the world, and I feel honored to be able to catch a glimpse of this adventure through you.

Kathy said...

To this old English teacher this sounds amazing! My students would absolutely love it. Last year my class created Facebook papges for characters from R & J, and this year we did blogs for THe Great Gatsby. I must learn all I can about Twitter to see if I can incorporate it into my curriculum next year. Thanks, Lumi!

La Dolce Vita said...

since I am only following the story here, I love visualizing it all through your eyes and the piece you created is wonderful!xx's

Seth said...

The story continues. You have me hooked!