Toronto Fringe Review: Romeo & Juliet Chainsaw Massacre

Two households, both alike in dignity… and a chainsaw-wielding maniac.

Performed at the Toronto Fringe, Romeo & Juliet Chainsaw Massacre does exactly what it says on the tin.

2016 is a special year for Shakespeare fans, being the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. As tribute, Bain & Bernard Comedy have hatched a twisted but refreshing take on the staple romantic tragedy.

The one-hour’s traffic of our stage follows the story we all know, with a new bonus sub-plot. While the houses of Capulet and Montague quarrel, an escaped mental patient is loose in fair Verona. And he loves dark robes, masks and chainsaws just as much as the titular star crossed lovers each other. Maybe you’ve fallen asleep at your local Shakespeare in the Park? Don’t worry. The revving of chainsaws and the cries of its victims will help you stay on your toes this time.

The problem with theatre made by young Canadians is that we love the dreary and existentialist too much. It’s a matter apparent from any drama major’s reading list. Other than our cultural inferiority complex, we can’t help but talk about how morose we are. This is, however, a trap that Bain & Bernard avoid. They stand up in their bedazzled and bloody doublets, and give us permission to enjoy ourselves.

Although bound to make purists cringe, it’s not simply mindless violence. For what it is, this production is actually easier to understand than most modern attempts at Shakespeare. The ensemble cast delivers with surprising nuance, realizing much of the subtext and context. There just happen to be chainsaws to help move the plot along.

The cast doesn’t contain a single weak link. Whether it’s reciting sonnets or staying on top of the solid fight choreography, their energy is palpable. Who knew that Juliet’s nurse could be such a badass? Costume designer Gwyneth Barton also deserves a shout-out for the blood and guts she incorporates into the gorgeous Elizabethan costumes.

Overall, the atmosphere is genuine, and there is a solid plot twist, much like good horror needs. If you want to know what it’s like to belly laugh for an hour straight, give Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre a shot.

Romeo & Juliet Chainsaw Massacre plays at the Randolph Theatre until July 10th. Tickets are available through the Fringe website, or at the festival box office.

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