It might seem trite to say Eastern Front Theatre’s Fat Juliet is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet unlike any you’ve ever seen—yes, even counting the dreamy Leonardo DiCaprio-Claire Danes redux from 1996. But what if I was to tell you that this spin on Shakespeare’s star-crossed story, debuting at Alderney Landing from Oct 22-31, is more fun and relatable than any you’ve ever heard of?
“The very first moments of the play, we see Juliet, in a bathing suit, considering herself in a mirror—perhaps not so favourably. And then, a little bit conspiratorially, she announces to the audience: ‘No one can love you if you're fat, you know. My mother told me that’.” Kat McCormack, the show’s director, says, leaning over the table at rehearsal for emphasis. “That, to me, is a little bit of the thesis: Do we actually have these thoughts about ourselves, or is this something that someone has put in my own mind?”
The story—written and starring playwright Stevey Hunter—reframes the story from Juliet’s perspective, smuggling themes of self-love and body positivity into the historical play.
“I never saw myself as Juliet, until I actually was like, ‘Oh, unless she was fat, because when I was 16, I was fat’—and I've never seen that. Why haven't I seen that? Why don't we see fat people falling in love? Because fat people fall in love all the time,” Hunter says, seated near McCormack. “So then it just turned into: Okay, well let's see this timeless love story, but this time it's from the perspective of what it would have been like for me, as a fat 16-year-old.”
That means the stage at Alderney Landing is being constructed to look like a Billie Eilish tour, with a 20-foot high four-poster bed and big sleepover vibes. Body-positive illustrations by Coast contributor Mollie Cronin of Art Brat Comics round out the scene. “The Shakespeare language kind of comes out like regular conversation,” Nathan Simmons, the actor who plays Tybalt, adds, while Lou Campbell (playing Angel) nods next to him. Another departure? “It's going to totally smash everybody's idea of who Romeo is and totally dethrone Leonardo DiCaprio,” says Peter Sarty, who’ll be playing the heartthrob. “He’s a bit of a fuckboy!”
“I know this play won't change the world,” adds Hunter. “But it might change someone's world.”