“for you and I are past our dancing days…”
It’s one of the world’s most beloved stories; the story of woe of Juliet and her Romeo. I doubt today that there is a person alive without some concept and knowledge of the tragedy that is Romeo and Juliet and their undying love.
The story has been mutated into every possible avenue, whether it is a portraying of Romeo and Juliet in a modern era, or into a comic strip, or even into the world of ballet.
Just recently the Australian Ballet company had put on a production of Romeo and Juliet, Choreographed by the famous Graeme Murphy. I was lucky enough to be an audience member for their opening benefit performance, eager to see how this performance would portray the story of these two infamous lovers.
The ballet began effortlessly, and as I expected, beautifully. With the Capulet’s in costumes bearing spikes, and the Montague’s dressed in a similar fashion and the girls in beautiful silk and softly flowing garments, the costume department didn’t disappoint. The scene was set closely within the era that Shakespeare intended, and the set design and lighting mirrored this accordingly.
But really, it’s the infamous ballroom scene and the even more so loved balcony scene that I was holding out for, and I was not disappointed. Romeo (name) and Juliet (name) glided across the floor gracefully, their limbs holding onto one another, moving with such fluidity and in perfect partnership that portrayed nothing short of the love and romance befitting Shakespeare’s most beloved characters. The set designs supported soft twinkling lights to set the mood and not overshadow the significance and elegance of the dance. It really was remarkable to watch.
Shakespeare’s characteristic traits of Mecrutio and (name) were spot on, they retained their boyish charm and sense of mischief throughout their performance enough to bring upon fits of laughter from the audience.
Now, this is where it get’s interesting. Graeme Murphy made some artistic changed within the character of the Friar. Instead of being a Catholic church, he introduces the concept of Buddhism into the performance. It was done exceptionally well, and I really enjoyed the translation of the text being more accessible to other cultures.
The era in which the play was set began to change at this point when Juliet’s nurse came in to deliver the message to Juliet on a rather modern looking bicycle on a set that had a feel of an only slighter older London.
Even returning after intermission we found ourselves in India for the big scene where Tybalt kills Mecrutio and Romeo seeks his vengeance. Whether this was again for making the play more accessible to a multiple amount of cultures, and an expression of how William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is transcendent across the globe, came into my mind, however I spent a good long while trying to figure out, why on earth we were suddenly in India and how we got there. All the Bollywood dancing seemed also to overshadow that pivotal moment where tension builds and the first death occurs, spurring on the rest of the story, as I was still sitting there, trying to figure out how we got to India all of a sudden.
From here on out the changes of culture were slightly less subtle than the first half of the performance, we even ended up in what I can assume was Egypt where Juliet’s tomb lay, with the backdrop of sand dunes and skulls by her crypt.
The concept behind the changing of the era and destination of each scene made sense as a symbol of the accessibility that the story of Romeo and Juliet is to the entire world, however the implementation was at times overshadowing the story and the amazing dancing that was occurring on stage. It began overwhelming, but reflecting back on it the message behind it was great. I believe it all depends on what you go in there expecting.
The change from the Friar to the Buddhist monks was particularly clever and worked in with the story effortlessly, and for me was a pleasant surprise.
The entire performance in fact is one of beauty, the dancers are fluid in their movements, the set design does not disappoint and the music along with it is a masterpiece.
It’s amazing how artistic avenues that the story of Romeo and Juliet is told and how it is translated into a myriad of world views, making the story accessible to every man, woman and child.
– Brogan Cooper