‘What’s in a name?’ asks Romeo in one of the best known monologues in Romeo and Juliet and in the whole history of theater. What’s in the title of a play that any viewer knows about since school, whose every story detail, scene and sometimes exact words are well know in advance? How can you make of such a play and a story a performance that is relevant to our times? The bet is being taken in the most daring manner by the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. The bet is won. They trusted the performance to a 30 years old director – Noam Shmuel – at his first major stage performance in one of the best theaters in Israel. Shmuel reused the Cameri 3 hall in the same manner it was used for the performance with Hamlet (staring Itay Tiran) a few years ago. There is no stage in the sense we understand the structure in any theater hall. Spectators are sit in the middle of the room on chairs that rotate 360 degrees, and the performance happens around and in the middle of them. Multimedia screens like in sport bars broadcast from time to time flash news and anchor Yaron London tells the choir part in the style he does the evening news and political commentaries broadcast on TV. Romeo and Juliet are brought in contemporaneity and we spectators are part of the story, which happens at the same level and at breathing distance from us.

source http://www.cameri.co.il/index.php?page_id=1883

The beautiful thing in this performance at Cameri is that neither the dramatic structure nor the beauty of the Shakespearean verse got lost in the modern adaptation. The Hebrew translation of Eli Bijaui mixes modern Hebrew with the classical transcription of the language of the bard, and the ratio of the mix is the right one. We are simultaneously in the eternal Verona where the impossible and tragic love story is happening and inexorably ending for centuries but we also are in the 21st century Israel with the crime families wars dominating the news. The violence is the same, the absurd of the circumstances that prevent the lovers to reunite transcends time. One more plus is the selection of the actors. Nelly Tagar is a young, fresh and fragile Juliet, which immediately brings to mind the vision of Franco Zeffirelli who also understood and projected the power of the teenagers love story in his cinematographic version of 1968. Dan Shapira is a plausible Romeo counterpart to Tagar. The role that dominates the performance is however the Nurse, which is turned here in the key character of the story. The vision of the director in general can be called a feminist one, as the feminine characters (the nurse, Juliet, the mothers in the two families) all play central roles amplified relative to what we are accustomed in the classical performances, and even the modern ones where friar Lorenzo is the favorite maverick. Not so here, where Rozina Cambos‘s Nurse dominates the intrigue and the performance in what is maybe one of the memorable roles of her acting career, and maybe the best since she came to Israel. I am following her career for about 35 years so I may be suspected of some bias, but I believe that for many Israeli spectators who saw this stage version, it will remain in memory as the Nurse’s and Rozina’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.