'& Juliet' Stars Georgia Anderson And Yashith Fernando Talk Musical Theatre, Representation And Self-Discovery

"I've always been a brown person by myself amongst a Caucasian group of dancers."

& Juliet cast members Georgia Anderson and Yashith Fernando

& Juliet cast members Georgia Anderson and Yashith Fernando. Image Source: Supplied

They may not have started their careers in musical theatre, but Georgia Anderson and Yashith Fernando couldn’t feel more at home in the musical theatre world as they do as part of the Australian production of & Juliet

After sold-out seasons in Melbourne, Perth and Singapore, the celebrated & Juliet production has now opened in Sydney. Flipping the script on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, this show imagines “what would happen next if Juliet hadn’t ended it all over Romeo, and got a second chance at life and love – on her terms”. 

“It’s been really powerful to see that story come together within our rehearsals,” Anderson (who plays Susanna) tells Draw Your Box

“There are also stories of old love and new love. But particularly for me, being queer as well, the love story between Frankie (aka Francois) and May is definitely a heart stopper in the show and it just makes me so happy to share that story as a performer every day.” 

Growing up in Perth and Singapore, Anderson is the daughter of an Indian mother, and a father with Chinese and British heritage. Seeing a multiracial queer woman in the performing arts or media was rather rare in her younger years. So, to now be part of such a diverse production is immensely special. 

Anderson recalls a recent rehearsal day where all of the female ensemble were on set to go through their routines. “They were all POC (people of colour),” she says.

“I've always been a brown person by myself amongst a Caucasian group of dancers. So, to be able to share that space with so many people of colour, and to be able to tell our own stories, is such an honour.” 

Georgia Anderson and the cast of & Juliet

Image Source: Supplied/Daniel Boud

Having danced since she was a kid, Anderson naturally had her eyes set on a professional dance career as she grew older. But upon learning that more roles in the industry require performers to be across dancing, singing and acting, she quickly trained herself up to be a triple threat. 

“I know musical theatre wasn't what I saw for myself when I was young, but I'm so grateful that I'm doing theatre now,” she says. 

One of Anderson’s co-stars, Yashith Fernando (who plays Francois), is equally as proud to be a part of the production after taking a different route to get into the industry.

“It’s [musical theatre] definitely something I've always wanted to get into, but I guess I just never really knew the avenues or what it would actually look like if I did,” Fernando reflects on his earlier years before a musical theatre career became a reality. 

After studying teaching and music in Melbourne, he finally decided to pursue musical theatre seriously. His parents, who migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka before Fernando was born, were supportive of his decision to perform on stage for a living – but like many South Asian immigrants, perhaps needed a bit of time to understand what it entailed.  

“It was a bit difficult to see eye-to-eye at certain times, just because of me growing up in Australia and them moving to Australia,” explains Fernando. “We had very different viewpoints on what I needed to have a fulfilling life and to earn money. 

“They always just wanted what was best for me. As I got older, I was able to actually use my words and articulate everything that I was actually feeling, a bit better. 

“I feel like they were able to listen more because I was able to just say, ‘Hey, look, we came to Australia because you wanted me to have a great life and this is the life I want… You made me someone who's determined and you made me someone who isn't scared of what's going to happen.’ I remember that conversation – it was a beautiful moment.”  

Speaking of strong character and personality, Fernando loves that his & Juliet character Francois has a complex storyline that will intrigue and entertain audiences. 

“This guy is a male-presenting character and he goes on this journey [of self-discovery] that I don't think you see lots of men or male characters go on,” says Fernando. “Francois gets to meet Juliet and all these new people that help him kind of figure that out. 

“Francois also has to figure out how to put himself first as well and how that is just as important as putting his father's wishes and expectations first... which is something that I think lots of South Asian people can relate to.” 

Yashith Fernando in & Juliet

Image Source: Supplied/Daniel Boud

Similarly to Anderson, Fernando applauds the diversity within the cast which is led by First Nations actor Lorrinda May Merrypor as Juliet. He also emphasises that “there’s so many different types of diversity within the show”, including age, gender, culture and sexuality. 

He only hopes that & Juliet is the start of more diverse productions and of course, more diverse talent entering the industry. In terms of advice for young people trying to make their mark in the biz, Fernando says, “It’s easier said than done, but know who you are and know what you bring to the table”.

“I remember there's periods of my life when I was younger, where I was ashamed of my culture and ashamed of who I was, just because I felt like it was holding me back or I felt like it wasn't something I could use. Looking back on that, that’s sad.” 

By embracing who you are and keeping loved ones “by your side”, Fernando believes anything is truly possible. 

& Juliet will play the Sydney Lyric Theatre from 27 February, 2024 – 28 April, 2024. Tickets are available now here.