‘HEIRS’ Romeo and Juliet re-devised | Sunday Observer

‘HEIRS’ Romeo and Juliet re-devised

Imagine you walk into a party. You meet someone, have an instant connection, and your world goes up in smoke. One moment you’re living it up, the next everything’s gone to hell.

This story is not a new one - boy meets girl, they fall in love, life gets in the way. At the very moment they connect, someone else pushes them apart.

“Two households, both alike in dignity… from ancient grudge break to new mutiny.” Romeo and JulietAct 1, Scene 1 (William Shakespeare).

Studiolusion is proud to present an original re-telling of the classic Romeo and Juliet; ‘Heirs’, an immersive theatre production, presented in partnership with AOD. Written and directed by Tasmin Anthonisz, the show features a brilliantly dynamic mix of long time character actors and new comers; Haseeb Hassen and Luxmi Wijeyanathan as the love-struck protagonists, Romeo and Juliet; Ayudhya Gajanayake as the antagonistic Rosaline; Lithmal Jayawardena as Mercutio; Hashen Ratnayake as Benvolio; NandunDissanayake as Appa; Onara de Silva as the rebellious Nani; Niren Ranasinghe and Sulo Perera as Mr. and Mrs. Capulet; Sonali Wanigabaduge as Laila Montague; Amandha Amarasekara as Paris and Shonel Perera as Judge Esca.

Following on the premise created with ‘Chatroom’ in 2017, ‘Heirs’ breaks the fourth wall and brings the audience into the action itself, creating an intimate immersive experience within a private garden space that perfectly complements the intimacy of the play.

The play takes place in an abstract world not too different from our own, where society is divided between the Montagues and the Capulets. The two rival families stand at odds with one another in a clash of ideologies, beliefs and warring opinions on the proper ways of doing things. One is rooted in tradition and conservative ideology. The other is more liberal, yet ruthlessly capitalistic. When two independent men set fire to one family’s property, they blame the other for lighting the metaphorical match, leading to mounting tension and violence between the two factions of their small city. Within this atmosphere of suspicion and unrest Romeo and Juliet, the only children of the nuclear families, secretly develop a close relationship which ties the fates of their Houses together.

Studiolusion uses the skeleton of Shakespeare’s text as a blueprint to create a whole new story. Drawing inspiration from the original source material Rhomeo and Julietta by William Painter (The Palace of Pleasures), the epic poem Rhomulus and Juliette, as well as Shakespeare’s work, ‘Heirs’ is a partially devised/partly scripted piece exploring inter-communal rivalry between the Houses of Montague and Capulet.

The idea of a modern retelling is of course nothing new; West Side Story, Warm Bodies, Gnomeo and Juliet, and The Lion King 2 are only a few of the stories out there that rehash the Romeo and Juliet trope. Others like Sharman Macdonald’s After Juliet and the Starz seriesStar-Crossed also go beyond the limits of the original text to flesh out the two Houses in conflict. In the best of them, Shakespeare’s text clearly serves as the jumping-off point to spark discussions on race, sexuality, gender roles and core truths about humanity in a way that speaks to present generations.

Whether ‘Heirs’ reaches that standard is a question for later, but it is without doubt that the play has something relevant to say about duty, desire, fate and autonomy. It is less about the all-consuming love between two teenagers and more a journey of companionship; an exploration of how younger generations navigate life around social brainwashing and inherited bias. It champions the idea of fostering mutual understanding and respect across cultures in order to bring people together.

‘Heirs’ takes place on the 19th, 20th and 21st of July, from 7.30 pm onwards at No. 18/4 KirimandalaMawatha, next to Vidura College.Tickets for the show are available online at Takas.lk.