A Tender Thing, Belfry Theatre November 5 – December 8 2013 – a review.

A Tender Thing, Ben Power’s re-working of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, is a profoundly powerful, disquieting, and brave examination of eternal love at the end-of-life.

With devastating simplicity, two of Canada’s most senior and accomplished actors, Peter Anderson (Romeo) and Clare Coulter (Juliet), working together for the first time, capture the heart-break of bidding adieu.

Power was only 28, and a theatrical wunderkind, when he was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to re-imagine what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most known and performed plays.

He has winnowed and re-ordered the text to an emotionally-charged and taut 90 minutes reminiscent of a spider’s web – seemingly fragile, yet charged with enormous tensile strength.

A_Tender_Thing_0356Peter Anderson and Clare Coulter. Photo: David Cooper

The North American premiere, currently playing at the Belfry Theatre, opens with Brooke Maxwell’s haunting and grief-filled score, which couples with designer Christina Poddubiuk’s dark interior to set the portentous mood.

Coulter is luminous as Juliet – age may have ravaged her body, but her spirit is initially unquenchable. Together with the actors, we delight in their love, and become entangled in the clear joy and delight they experience in one another’s presence.  Anderson becomes a capering youth, serenading his beloved on the ukulele as he executes arabesques and turns in his efforts to please.

From life to death, a disturbing diagnosis begins the battle of wills, as Juliet opines to end it all.  Echoes of current (and topical) right-to-die debates heighten the urgency of the couple’s discussions.  Seen from a comfortable distance, the love story of Romeo and Juliet resides in fantasy. Powers’ version brings it uncomfortably close to home for many theatre-goers, proof positive of Shakespeare’s brilliance over centuries.  Director Peter Hinton has ensued that every possible nuance is explored fully.

A Tender Thing stands alone as a contemporary play. Audience members who choose may wish to re-read Romeo and Juliet as a refresher before attending, or study the ample materials provided on the Belfry’s website.

Re-imagining the text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, British playwright Ben Power has remixed the greatest love story ever told. The premise is simple – rather than taking their own lives as in the original, our young lovers have grown old together. Now, as their lifetime of love and marriage comes to a close, they must contemplate being alone. Shakespeare’s timeless poetry creates a new deeply romantic and powerful play in a strikingly different love story.

Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Avenue

November 5 – December 8, 2013
Tickets $25 to $40 (plus GST) at 250-385-6815 or online at https://tickets.belfry.bc.ca.

Starring Clare Coulter (Juliet) & Peter Anderson (Romeo)

Director Peter Hinton
Designer Christina Poddubiuk
Lighting Designer Robert Thomson
Composer Brooke Maxwell
Assistant Director Elizabeth Saunders
Stage Manager Jennifer Swan
Assistant Stage Manager Ben Cheung

Audience Engagement Events:

Belfry B4Play
Saturday, November 2 at 11am
Belfry Theatre, Studio A, 1291 Gladstone Avenue

Join CBC Radio’s Gregor Craigie for a live talk show featuring artists from A Tender Thing and some very special guests. Free Event.

Afterplay Weeks

November 12–16 / 26–30

Ever want to “debrief” after seeing a show? Or maybe you’re curious how others interpreted the play. Stick around after the evening performances on the dates listed above, and chat with fellow audience members.

TalkBack Thursday

Thursday, November 14

Following the 8 pm performance of A Tender Thing, join the actors from the show and your fellow audience members for a 20-minute Q & A session.

Belfry at the Library

Coming to a branch in your neighbourhood. Join us for a casual lunchtime chat about A Tender Thing with Belfry artists and a special guest expert from the community. Produced in partnership with the Greater Victoria Public Library, guests can register online at http://www.gvpl.ca or call their local branch for more information about these free events.

OakBay, Tuesday, November 12

Central Saanich, Friday, November 15

Emily Carr, Tuesday, November 19

Saanich Centennial, Friday, November 22

Disclaimer: I was offered complimentary tickets to attend A Tender Thing. As always, I maintain full editorial control over all content published on this site.

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.


  1. Audrey Trenholme says

    My only disappointment was how difficult it was to hear everything the actors were saying.

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