Romeo and Juliet | Interview with Director Janine Watson



What can students gain from a live theatre experience that they may not get from reading Shakespeare in the classroom?

If theatre is to continue to have any currency with young people, it is vital that it is through the live experience and the visceral exchange that happens when an audience and actors meet in a theatre. Students may gain an appreciation for language by reading Shakespeare in a classroom, but the humanity of his characters, his timelessness, and the size of his ideas can only truly be understood when a production illuminates these things.

What are your best tips for making Shakespeare more accessible to students?

My number one goal is to not mollify the intensity of a play’s themes because they are students. I don’t believe in playing down to kids. Accessible shouldn’t mean simplifying. There are a lot of complex ideas in the plays that can be demystified by drawing contemporary comparisons. I think the most important aspect of accessibility is that students know his ideas are not confined to the past. A modern setting in a production is not always necessary for this, though it can help. But discussion around the plays social, political and emotional themes and their parallels to today is essential.

What was your own experience of Shakespeare when you were in school?

I did high school in Tasmania in the 90s. At that time there were no touring groups coming to our schools. So, I had little access to the live experience via school and when I did it was astonishing. We studied the soliloquies in Drama. I read a lot of Shakespeare myself because my parents took me to a lot of mainstage theatre. I wish we’d had greater access. Regional areas now have more options which is so important.

What are you most looking forward to in directing this production?

The actors I’m going to be working with. The opportunity to build the world and the characters with them. Directing such a high stakes story – it’s huge. I have a brilliant production team who will help me create a dynamic universe for the story. And these actors are just amazing. With only 8 actors we again have the challenge of having actors playing multiple roles so I’m very keen to find exciting ways to make that work in our favour.

And finally, what’s your favourite scene in Romeo and Juliet?

“Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day…”. And the brawl between Tybalt and Mercutio.

For more information on how to book a performance of Romeo and Juliet, click here.

About Janine Watson

Janine is a graduate of the National Theatre Drama School, Melbourne. For Bell Shakespeare she has previously appeared in The Dream, was a member of The Players in 2013, and will direct the 2018 Learning production of Romeo and Juliet. Her other theatre credits include A View From The Bridge and Dolores for Redline Production/Old Fitz Theatre; Measure For Measure, Antigone and Three Sisters for Sport for Jove; The Happy Prince, Dracula and Dangerous Liaisons for Little Ones Theatre; American Beauty Shop for KXT; Or Forever Hold Your Peace for La Boite; Dangerous Liaisons for MTC Neon/Darwin Festival; Triangle and J.A.T.O for MKA Theatre; Cordelia for Little Dove and Agatha for Melbourne Fringe. Her film credits include That’s Not Me, The Outside Light, and Picking Up At Auschwitz. Her television credits include The Code 2, Neighbours, Crash Burn, and The Secret Life Of Us. Janine was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2017 Sydney Theatre Awards, was nominated for Best Female Performer at the 2012 Green Room Awards, and received the 2016 Sandra Bates Directors Award.