DisColourNation’s Romeo is Not the Only Fruit challenges not only the archetypal love story, but the stereotypes to which lesbian lovers are doomed in most representations. The production provides an entertaining and thought provoking exploration of homosexual love and its portrayal in the mainstream.
A new work written by Jean Tong and Margaret Tanjutco, the production’s script was mostly engaging and insightful. The tight, humourous writing jumped between intellectual satire and almost slapstick comedy, and ensured constant laughter from the audience. At the same time, the comedy was a means to an end, and provided incisive criticisms of society and the media’s portrayal of homosexuality, and, to a lesser extent, structural racism. The writing thus managed to avoid taking itself too seriously whilst engaging with serious issues within the arts. As is often the case with new works, there were some areas in which the writing was patchy. Some of the jokes fell flat or became repetitive, and there were moments the writing lacked the energy and direction of the rest of the play. Similarly, although the show closed with an energetic musical number, the ending did feel somewhat unfinished, with the fate of the heroines, and its relevance to the play’s criticism, left up in the air. Nonetheless, these are not insurmountable issues, and could certainly be fixed with further development and performances. It was ultimately refreshing to see a new work engage in novel and important criticisms of the arts and their representation of minorities.
On the whole, the cast performed well as an ensemble, and are to be commended on their dedication to highly demanding roles. Jumps between song, dance and the varying characters were handled well, and lines delivered with great comic timing. However, Margaret Tanjutco’s Juliet was a standout performance. Tanjutco brought an abundance of energy, clarity and skill to her role that lifted the entire production. Her portrayal of Juliet balanced vitality and humour to produce a performance that was entertaining without being exaggerated or melodramatic. Eunice Chuang also gave an enjoyable and energetic performance as G-Ma/Ensemble, delivering flair and personality to the many minor roles she covered over the play.
The production design, by Adrian Cajili, was interesting and effective, with the comic-like, colourful props playing a crucial role in establishing the bubbly, whimsical, dark world of the play. However, these elements would have been strengthened through greater prominence or use throughout the production– the props and set design did at some times feel sparse, and in turn the world felt less developed than it could have been. The costume design was mostly suitable and effective, with the 1950s theme being most strongly represented here. However, some more modern costumes, such as the fiancé’s, disrupted this coherency. Despite this the costumes and production design made a significant contribution to the play’s success, and I can envision their greater development and efficacy in a high budget production.
Romeo is Not the Only Fruit is an exciting piece of new work that challenges the arts and their representation of minorities. With a strong and diverse cast, it fights the issues it targets through its very existence, and thus its importance in the arts should not be underestimated. Although some aspects of the script and design may need fine-tuning and polishing, DisColourNation’s production is as enjoyable as it is incisive.
DisColourNation’s Romeo is Not the Only Fruit runs from May 4th -6th at the Guild Theatre.