Review // Duel Reality Theater
Review // Duel Reality Theater

Review // Duel Reality Theater

Duel Reality, Credit: Arata Urawa

Duel Reality made it’s energetic and cheeky US Premier at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater on February 8th. The show is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet told with circus performers executing death-defying feats of acrobatics and other astonishing circus arts. The show is performed by the Montreal based art collective, The 7 Fingers, whose stated aim is to “redefine circus by stripping down the spectacle to its thrilling essence.” Created and directed by Shana Carroll, this is not your father’s Shakespeare. Not for the faint of heart, it was honestly hard not to worry for the performer’s safety during some of the stunts in this performance.

The stage was arranged was a smooth, black surface, sporting a white circle in the middle—reminiscent of a basketball court or other sporting space. Each half of the stage was illuminated with either red or blue light. When entering the theater, every patron received either a red or blue wristband, aligning them with a team–reminiscent of the teams at Medieval Times. The idea was that these performers were on competing teams and among the players were Romeo and Juliet who fall in love and must fight to be together.

The show started with stage combat mixed with acrobatics that quickly evolved into pole climbing and accomplishing elaborate poses on the poles. Two of the performers climbed to the top of the 25-foot-tall pole and allowed themselves to fall—catching themselves just before they reached the ground. A measuring tape was produced and the competitor who got closest to the ground before stopping received applause. The poles quickly disappeared after that scene and a couple of jugglers took to the stage, one person juggling white balls, another juggling white pins. They were very impressive with their grace and dexterity. Following that was a scene with people doing aerial stunts on chains, a very cool diabolo juggling act with an object balancing on a string, explosive stunts on a see saw, lots of dancing, and a heartwarming musical number at the end. The show was jam-packed with action, sometimes so much was happening that I wasn’t sure where I should look.

The performers who played Romeo and Juliet had great chemistry and their love story was believable. Their dancing together was superb and gave the show some much-needed heart to meld the entire performance into one cohesive show. The plot did get a bit muddied in the middle when the audience seemed no longer sure if they should be rooting for their respective colors, whether it was still a competition or not. It was a bold choice to rewrite the end to arguable the most famous play of all time, I’m not entirely convinced that it was a successful change. The acting was probably the weakest part of the show, but the performers made up for it with their love of their craft that was so evident throughout the evening. There were music tracks playing throughout the acts, but none of it was particularly memorable aside from the piece that played when Romeo and Juliet were dancing. There was a musical number at the end of the show that was a bit hard to make out what was being said and could have stood to be more dynamic.

Don’t go to this show expecting a high brow Shakespearean moment but do go expecting to be impressed with what magic humans can create. Duel Reality runs at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater from February 7 – 18th. There will be an accessible show with audio described on Sunday February 11th.



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