In a secret dungeon many floors below a church – in what amounts to a Franciscan Bat Cave – an experiment is taking place.
Two young men, both with stab wounds are lying in the same room. Both are sedated and under restraint.
One is Mercutio, friend of Romeo. The other is Tybalt, cousin of Juliet. Each wants to see the other dead.
Written by Giles Gartrell-Mills (it’s his first play), Mercutio and the Prince of Cats imagines an afterlife for the feuding youths of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in a facility run by Friar Lawrence, who scooped the half-dead youths off the street. No one knows they’re here and Mercutio and Tybalt have no idea where they are.
Lawrence’s plan? To heal their bodies with herbal tonics and to mend their warring souls with a program of confession and reconciliation – with pharmacological help if necessary.
Meanwhile, somewhere above, the action of the play moves forward without them.
Mercutio and the Prince of Cats is a smart idea and, like Joanna Erskine’s Rosaline (which played at KXT recently), offers an interesting spin on what is otherwise a too-familiar tale. Sparely written and comic in tone, Gartrell-Mills’s script doesn’t always match the promise of the scenario he’s created but the play makes for an entertaining 80 minutes that cleverly loops back into the tragic climax of the original play.
Directed by Bishanyia Vincent (her directing debut) on a detailed, split level set designed by Slade Blanch, this is a well-made production (featuring lighting by Martin Kinnane and a Tim Hansen-produced sound design and score) and winningly performed by Abe Mitchell and Jack Angwin as the feuding Mercutio and Tybalt, Danielle King (as the self-medicating Friar Lawrence) and Amanda McGregor as the nurse whose clockwork demeanour begins to unravel as her doubts regarding the Friar’s methods and the experiment’s chance of success grow.
I could see this fitting into an education season very easily.