Prague Fringe 2019
You don’t need to be a Shakespeare scholar to appreciate J’n’R, Blue Goat Theatre’s loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene, set in an airport at 4am. The instantly likable pair of actors, Shaheryar Shah and Anna Trier, weave some of the Bard’s most famous lines into a modern, occasionally feminist dissection of romance and dating rituals. The result is a clever, entertaining hour of spirited word play.
In the opening scene, Shah stumbles upon Trier in an airport lounge, where they are both waiting for delayed flights to different destinations, and attempts to use some of Shakespeare’s most renowned pick-up lines. Fiona Leonard, who wrote this play during the 2016 US presidential election, wanted to “capture the shift that was happening around women’s place in society and how conversations around relationships were changing.”
The writing shines in fast-paced dialogue between these relatable characters, with numerous clever quips eliciting natural laughter from the audience throughout the show. The interplay between an awkward-but-endearing man who feels entitled to approach the woman of his dreams plays very similarly to Aziz Ansari’s popular Netflix series Master of None. The guy means well, and the woman politely educates him on the nuances of a modern women’s point of view. In prolonging the conversations, she gets to see his more vulnerable, human side.
A few simple props – a table and chairs, some books and coffee cups, and their carry-on luggage – are all that’s needed to set the scene. Airport announcements and cell phone sounds are well handled by the sound engineer at the few moments they are needed. The actors move comfortably across the stage, playing with body language and personal space alongside the dialogue.
Shakespearean adaptations are a common occurrence on the Fringe scene, but J’n’R still feels like a fresh take on the genre. This isn’t a retelling of Romeo and Juliet or a reimagination of the characters in a contemporary setting. Shakespeare’s famous romance provides a theme for the actors to play with, but the jokes and social commentary spread much wider. These culturally diverse characters in accented English are juggling far more than parental expectations and dating decisions.
Without spoiling the ending, I can say that J’n’R’s opening night at Divadlo Kampa left the audience smiling and satisfied as they walked out the door. This talented new theater company has plenty to say, and it’s definitely worth adding their late-night show to your Fringe schedule to see for yourself.