Despite the many remakes of Romeo & Juliet (like Luhrmann’s 1990s ‘MTV Shakespeare’ or the boomer-friendly Zefferelli film from the 1960s), no one seemed to cater bogans until Bogan Shakespeare Productions came along.
As I sat down to watch this performance, I asked myself “Was there really a need for Bogan Shakespeare?” The answer is yes.
Five actors (Dean Lovatt, Hock Edwards, Kate Willoughby, Dawson and Sarah Courtis) each take on multiple roles for the play. Collectively, they were faultless. Each actor fed off the others. The actors had meaty material but never took it, or themselves, too seriously.
Lovatt acts as the narrator and Romeo’s best friend Mercuito, dressed in a ridiculous Shakespearean collar and ‘Centrelink – living the dream’ t-shirt. He switched from normal delivery of familiar lines to loudly introducing the ‘bogan’ twists.
Verona becomes Ellenbrook. There are thong battles, KFC hookups and the family house party. Exile means going to Rockingham. The Western Derby also played a small part; but never overpowered the ‘pure’ love story.
Romeo (Dawson) and Juliet (Courtis) are two flannelette rocking AFL bogans from Ellenbrook Senior High. Romeo is a cringy rapper, but an excellent dancer. Juliet dumps ex Paris, leaving seasonal AFL tickets and Australia Day boats in the dust. These bogan lovers have matching tattoos. Dawson and Courtis were consistently funny during their parts. Attendees even awed their way through the most awkward, bogan death scene.
Edwards perfected the douchebag Tybalt, and the hopeless Fryer Lawrence. Audiences snorted when the Mercuito-Romeo-Tybalt thong duel scenes occurred. The bizarre duel was one of the highlights of the performance!
Willoughby energetically provided reinforcement as the Principal of Ellenbrook Senior High and the Capulet Nurse. Surgical gloves went flying and many Tim Tams were eaten during her lines. Her scenes in the revised ending were appropriate.
Back in the day, Shakespeare’s works were designed to be presented to all members of society. Non-bogans, and bogans alike, enjoyed this performance.
In the words of Lovatt, who concluded the performance with this gem. “the ending was a bit bummed out? Well I didn’t write this!”