In Romeo and Juliet you would expect Romeo and Juliet to be together a lot of the time, right? I mean, the play is called Romeo and Juliet, not Romeo or Juliet. I don’t think I ever really realised just how much of the play the two eponymous characters spend apart until the recent Paper Stage reading of the play. Even having read and seen the play performed numerous times before, it never occurred to me that Romeo and Juliet only actually spend five scenes together in a 26-scene play, and in the final one of those (spoiler alert) they’re not actually alive at the same time, so I’m not sure it entirely counts. Maybe it was just to do with the fact that I was reading as Romeo (humble brag alert), or maybe it’s more to do with the format of the Paper Stage.
Focusing more on voicing than movement, the Paper Stage forced us collectively to imagine the performance space in our own ways. When the space is abstract, in our heads, rather than laid out and forced upon you on a stage, it opens itself up to many more possibilities. As such, the settings in our ‘production’ could be much more varied. I think this allowed us to differently visualise the relationship between character and space; in particular, it helped me realise that Romeo and Juliet as characters tend to occupy very different spaces in the play, something very pertinent to the play’s events.
As well as this, I think the interactive aspect of the Paper Stage was revealing. I noticed the lack of combined screen time for Romeo and Juliet mostly because I was sitting right next to my Juliet in the Gulbenkian café, but didn’t actually get to read with her very much (so close, yet so far). In fact, it’s likely that everyone noticed something nuanced about their own characters. There are probably lots of reasons why the Paper Stage’s style of reading made me come to this realisation as opposed to other readings and performances, but I think it’s an interesting one.
Also, make sure to follow #paperstage during the next one: my tweets were hilarious.