A refreshing Shakespeare mash-up that obliterates all lesbian stereotypes
By Lois Maskiell
Another reimagined Shakespeare might not have everyone leaping from their couches to purchase tickets, but Romeo is Not the Only Fruit definitely should convince otherwise. Jean Tong’s latest offering revolutionises the tale of star-crossed lovers, by creating a highly original romantic comedy. Written and Directed by Tong and featuring a cast of queer women of colour, this sharply satirical and heart-warming musical is easily the most refreshing mash-up of Shakespeare I have seen.
Revolving around the “bury your gays” trope, whereby queer characters are often killed off in various media, Juliet (Margot Tanjutco) and Darcy (Louisa Wall) fall in love despite their odds. The couple’s trajectory is witnessed by the dead lesbian chorus (Sasha Chong, Nisha Joseph and Pallavi Waghmode) who are both onlookers and meddling family members. At times they cheer the lovers on, while at others they coerce Juliet towards a heteronormative route. Though, like in all good rom-coms true love prevails as Juliet and her white girl lover overcome the obstacles of conservative parents, interracial romance and of course “dead lesbian syndrome”.
Tanjutco plays a charming and determined Juliet whose journey in love is mirrored by an arcade game of Mortal Combat. Fantastic sound effects tally Juliet and Darcy’s points as their romance develops. The chorus becomes increasingly involved in the outcome of their relationship, enjoying their clumsy triumphs as well as their spicier moments.
Tong’s lyrics teamed with James Gales’ composition and sound create a quality score with catchy, in-your-face lyrics. Diva powerhouse Pallavi Waghmode’s singing is something to witness in itself, her voice carries the songs with power. Sasha Chong as Juliet’s mother is quick-witted and captivating, and together with the naturally humorous Nisha Joseph, makes half of a strong comedic duo.
James Lew’s set and costumes give the show a kitsch aesthetic, the most innovative example being oversized cardboard drinks that Juliet and Darcy slurp on while watching performance art. All this, with Laura Frew’s pop choreography make this brilliant mash-up of Romeo and Juliet a pleasure to watch. Romeo is Not the Only Fruit challenges conventions and tropes with humour, and there’s no doubt many will leap from couches to see this production before it closes.
Romeo is Not the Only Fruit plays at Malthouse until 8 April. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.