the AU Interview: Kelly Paterniti on playing fair Juliet in Bell Shakespeare’s latest production of Romeo And Juliet

Romeo And Juliet. The classic tale of forbidden love and the passion of youth, and the first programme by Peter Evans as the new Artistic Director of Bell Shakespeare.

We searched for the light through yonder window and found Kelly Paterniti, the productions Juliet, to discuss tackling the world’s most famous leading role, pivotal moments of the play and what smells sweet (by any other name).

So, Juliet! What is it like taking on perhaps the most famous leading female role of all time?

It’s exciting and daunting simultaneously. Everyone has their own perceptions of Juliet and she’s been played by some amazing actresses.

Can you tell us a little bit about how this latest Bell Shakespeare production is reimagining the classic tale?

It’s going to be very beautiful visually, Anna Cordingly and the design team have done an incredible job. It’s set in the Elizabethan era which was when Shakespeare originally wrote it. There’s been a generation of people that grew up (myself included) with Baz Luhrmann’s remarkable contemporary adaption as their primary experience of the play. We are hoping that by doing finding the truth of the play in it’s traditional setting, with modern touches to bridge accessibility, we will be able to provide a different experience of the play.

What do you think is the most pivotal moment in Romeo and Juliet?

It’s probably the first time that Romeo and Juliet lock eyes. It sets off a chain reaction of events that move incredibly fast and are relatively unstoppable.

Do you have a favourite line to deliver?

There are so many beautiful lines. But I love:

Alack, alack, is it not like that I,

So early waking, what with loathsome smells,

And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth,

That living mortals, hearing them, run mad—?

It just shows the depth of Juliet’s incredible imagination, which, in this moment has turned rather dark!

What is it like working with your Romeo, Alex Williams?

Wonderful. He’s been so great to work with. We’ve been doing alot of physical movement with the wonderful Nigel Poulton and Pete so as a result I feel very safe and comfortable with him. Which is lovely in a play when you’re often so vulnerable.

This is the first programme by the new Artistic Director Peter Evans. What is it like being a part of the start of a new Bell era?

It’s brilliant to be apart of the Bell Team. I adore Peter and all of them so much, they are all so attentive and enthusiastic. Peter has some incredible ideas for the future of the company and I can’t wait to see what he does with it. I miss John, he is a wonderful presence and a wealth of knowledge, but I hope he won’t be too far away.

And finally, we all know a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. What smell is the sweetest to you?

I love the smell of Magnolias. And anything vanilla.

Bell Shakespeare’s latest production of Romeo And Juliet will be performed at the Sydney Opera House from 20th February until the 27th March, before travelling to Canberra 1st – 9th April and Melbourne 14th April – 1st May.

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