Canberra lawyer unveils lost Romeo and Juliet scene to the world

A Canberra lawyer and an emerging filmmaker have made a world first, re-creating a long-lost scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that was left on the cutting room floor.

The 470-year-old scene made its world premiere yesterday and Canberran Michael Curtotti said it sheds new light on the story – still a love story but also a struggle with mental health and lack of understanding.

The missing Act 5 Scene 1 – a powerful soliloquy by Romeo after he is told that Juliet is dead – was lost in translation. When Romeo and Juliet was first translated from Italian to English in the 16th century, Romeo’s soliloquy didn’t make the cut.

“Shakespeare didn’t actually create the story of Romeo and Juliet, itwas originally written by Italian author Matteo Bandello 43 years before Shakespeare’s play,” Michael said. “The fact that Shakespeare didn’t actually write Romeo and Juliet is known in scholarly circles but we don’t know it as a society. This is a historical fact that doesn’t sit with myths we want to believe.”

Michael became fascinated with Bandello’s original novella, Romeo and Giulietta, through reconnecting with his Italian roots. It took him more than a year to translate the original text and then, as executive producer, Michael collaborated with Sydney filmmaker Rhianna Spooner to resurrect the lost scene as a performance on film – for the first time in world history.

“It was lost in the sense that we’ve forgotten it,” Michael said. “We may not have even known it existed. Very few people have actually read Bandello’s original novella. It has been translated previously into English but I wanted to create a new translation that’s accessible to modern readers. It’s mind-blowing, the whole thing has been an amazing adventure.”  

Emerging filmmaker Rhianna Spooner said she had chills while they were recording such a groundbreaking film.

“The story of Romeo and Juliet is so well-known but to have this version that’s never been seen before was really exciting because there’s so much to discover,” she said.

“The scene shows the vulnerability of Romeo in that moment, which was never seen before. His characters feel much more honest and complex, like they’ve been ripped straight from the present. It makes you realise that the experience of young people hasn’t changed much in 500 years.”

Rhianna also said Juliet was older in Bandello’s version (18 rather than Shakespeare’s 13-year-old Juliet) and her character was stronger.

“Bandello’s novella is very much Juliet’s lost story,” Rhianna said. “Her motivation is shown a lot more, she talks about her intentions and the political advantages and disadvantages of marrying Romeo. She talks about things like dressing as a man to circumnavigate her problem. She’s the brains of the operation.”

Michael and Rhianna are considering making a feature film of Bandallo’s original Romeo and Juliet. Watch this space.

Juliet is Dead: Romeo’s Lost Scene can be viewed here.

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