Natural set for “Romeo and Juliet”

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Actors Emily McKenzie, as Juliet, and Nick Tipa, as Romeo, rehearse for their performance of the Shakespeare play in the Woodhaugh Garden on Monday. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Dunedin Summer Shakespeare will bring the romantic tale of Romeo and Juliet to the Woodhaugh Gardens.

Directed by Kim Morgan, the play stars Nick Tipa, of Melbourne, as Romeo and Emily McKenzie, of Wellington, as Juliet.

The garden’s nature, sounds and visitors will act as a backdrop for the actors.

Morgan said the spot, located in the eastern part of the garden at the end of Queen St, was the third scouted.

“But I think we found the best location with all the sounds around to create this very lively, open environment.”

Tipa said performing outside required a lot of warming up because it was not a dedicated performance space.

Early in rehearsals they tried to use entrances and exits through the pathways, but the noise from children playing in a nearby paddling pool drowned out the stage cues, he said.

Using what was available to them “makes you free to do a lot more than you could do in a traditional theatre”, he said.

For McKenzie, it will be her first time performing outside.

She was used to performing in a theatre or on a set, which made it easy to connect with fellow actors.

“It’s been a great learning process.”

She also enjoyed deciphering Shakespeare’s language and delving into the role of Juliet.

Playing a character so vulnerable was a new experience, but one she grew into alongside Tipa.

The pair met after they were cast in their roles, and worked to convey the characters’ raw, honest relationship.

Tipa said the deeper they dug into their characters in rehearsals, the more they started to “pull away a bit of the mask”.

“The more it becomes about the characters, the less it’s about the ego and the neurosis.”

Morgan felt the stars had aligned, and a believable relationship lay at the heart of the play.

“That’s really a gift to the work because you can dress it up as much as you like but if you can’t connect to these two connecting to each other then it doesn’t work.”

  • The free show will run from tomorrow until February 16 on Fridays at 6pm, Saturdays at 4pm and Sundays at 2pm. People are encouraged to take a rug. Check Facebook for alternate venue in case of severe weather.