An interview with Sonia Yeu aka “Tybalt Capulet” in Romeo + Juliet

Sonia Yeu as Tybalt in Romeo + Juliet, photo by Strawberry Singh
Sonia Yeu as Tybalt in Romeo + Juliet, photo by Strawberry Singh

I first met Sonia Yeu, pictured above in a photo by Strawberry Singh, a couple of years ago when we were both working as dancers at a club together. I had no idea she was interested in theatre until her first visit to Romeo + Juliet. I noticed her in the audience when she first arrived, and appreciated that someone from the world I used to inhabit had successfully crossed-over to this one. As the performances went on week after week, I noticed that Sonia kept coming back. She clearly loved the play and became one of our most loyal audience members.

On September 14th, Sonia became the third person to play Tybalt. She does an excellent job, week in and week out. I admire her dedication and her perfectionism. She has some of the highest standards for herself relative to nearly everyone I’ve worked with, and her abilities continue to improve with every show. Tybalt’s role is unique, in that it has an assistant director responsibility. So, we rely on Sonia to verify all the many things we need to remember in our pre-show preparations, she acts as Harvey’s eyes on the set, and cues him when the audience is hearing the music, so that he can start and close the scenes on time. In this, she’s been amazingly reliable.

I had a chance to sit down and ask Sonia a few questions about her role in the play and this is the conversation below.

Becky: What did you first think when you heard about being considered for a part in Romeo + Juliet?

Sonia Yeu: I was thinking “awesome!!!” It was just the day after I was chosen I suddenly asked myself “Oh my, what have I done?” and I was scared. Let’s just say that I often feel like the chrome ball in a pinball machine.

B: How did you find the audition process?

SY: At that time, I wasn’t reading your blog; I was just watching the show for the ninth time and at its end I noticed you talking about the audition. Like we use to say in my country, I “fell from the clouds” and I recklessly told myself “yes I will try!!!”. At that moment I was really not really aware of the emotional path that I was about to start on. I remember the audition itself as simple and short, especially compared to the concern that went along the preparation for it.

B: Do you think the story of Romeo + Juliet is still relevant today? Why or why not?

SY: I think the story will be relevant forever, since it’s about love, youth, good people, evil people, families, honour… You can find all of this in any era or any part of the world, with very few differences. The kind of love in Romeo + Juliet is so spontaneous, overwhelming, passionate and reckless –  it must be treasured today.

B: How would you describe your character’s personality? Strengths, weaknesses?

SY: I don’t feel Tybalt has many strengths; his blind “family honour” appears as a weakness to me. This is just my humble opinion.

I feel Tybalt is a guy who isn’t loved – and maybe never knew love – so he can’t well understand it and he might even be jealous of love when he sees it.

He seems to play the strong guy, but I mostly see him as an irascible person, and I always thought irascible ones are actually fragile inside.

B: How do you feel when the curtain opens at the start of your first scene?

SY: Absolutely fine, because the scariest moment is in the second one! I will always remember the music coming before that scene like something announcing the reckoning. It feels a bit like the last scene of a Sergio Leone western.

Talking about feelings, I will never forget what I felt the first time I was there to play, and I crossed the line between the parterre and the stage… it was almost physical for me, something unexpected, and that I can’t describe.

B: What were some of the challenges in preparing and performing this show?

SY: I suddenly felt I couldn’t remember all that I had to do. Reading logged chats from rehearsal, I made a step list, which became essential until I really learned my part. Performing can depend on several unexpected events: while you can learn to work around or prevent many technical issues, one can never be 100% sure. And, after all you’re always just a human being, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can always avoid mistakes!

B: What was your most scary moment as you were performing the show?

SY: I remember I had similar issues on two consecutive plays to which I wasn’t able to react quickly enough. That was more disheartening for me than scary.

A very short, but scary moment happened later, maybe during my tenth performance: just before my second scene, I was climbing the stairs and I noticed I didn’t have my gun. So once up there, turning and facing the curtain, I double-clicked on the gun in my inventory. Instead of “adding” it, losing my jacket.

I had this image before my eyes: me, with the gun, but an invisible torso, facing the audience down there (that still couldn’t see me). Barely one second later, Harvey messaged me: “ready?”. I don’t know which part of my brain reacted when I wrote “5 seconds”, and then finding my jacket in inventory and adding it to my avatar, finally writing “ready”. That was unforgettable.

B: Would you do something like this again if you had the chance?

SY: I would answer “Yes” without doubt but… I have to ask myself: what else could be “like this”? When I think of Romeo + Juliet at this moment, there is still a kind of soft magic cloud enveloping my heart. It couldn’t be otherwise, since I had already fallen in love with the show while I was a spectator of it. So, I feel it is unique.

***

And so is she. Sonia resumes her role as Tybalt with Romeo + Juliet’s Winter Season, beginning with our performance on Saturday the 5th, at 1pm SLT.

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