Romeo & Juliet Opening Night

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Highlights from Graeme Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet. Production: The Apiary

Last night I attended the opening night of The Australian Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet in Perth. I’m still buzzing from the night, and the performance I saw. As I was sitting down, I turned around and realised that David McAllister (the Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet) was sitting right behind me. But all thoughts of who else was around quickly disappeared when the music began and the curtains lifted. I honestly didn’t feel the time fly by, it felt like it was only five minutes, and I could have stayed for an extra two hours watching the ballet.

I don’t quite know how to eloquently put into words what made this particular performance of Romeo & Juliet so memorable and unique. First, there is Graeme Murphy’s choreography. I feel Murphy injected some irreverence, and an Australian sense of humour, into a classical ballet and into a genre of art that many people (erroneously) regard as inaccessible. The thing is, when Shakespeare was writing his plays, he intended them for performance for the public, not as distanced ‘high art’. His plays contain a mixture of the bawdy and the sublime, and he has a keen awareness of the combined ludicrousness and beauty of human nature. It’s extremely difficult to translate all that, along with his words, into movement and choreography, and the fact that I could sense and feel all sides of Shakespeare in Murphy’s choreography is a testament to his genius. Aren’t we lucky Australia, that we have a choreographer like him?

And oh dear, the costumes by Akira Isogawa and the set design by Gerard Manion! Just stunning. It’s one thing to look at pictures of the costumes and the sets, but quite another to see them on stage, in person, live. It’s like looking at a photo of a beautiful flower: it looks nice, but you can’t really appreciate its true texture, its beauty, its smell, until you get to see it with your own eyes, unmediated by a camera lens.

And although all the dancers were just brilliant last night, I couldn’t take my eyes off Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe. Especially Madeleine – a small but impressive figure on stage whose technique seems flawless to me and who managed to convey the tenderness and innocence of Juliet, along with her first passion. But I feel guilty for picking ‘favourites’, as everyone was so good.

I guess the thing I liked most about this production was that in its combination of costumes, choreography, dancing execution (and acting), set design and music, it was an interesting amalgamation of Australian dance combined with the legacy of European classical dance. As I said, there’s a humour in this production, and a sense of irreverence that seems typically Australian to me in its tone and style. But there is also a debt to past productions of the ballet. They sat well together last night, like a smooth combination of the old and the new. I can honestly say I liked this version of Romeo & Juliet better than the ones I’ve seen outside of Australia. And as I was sitting there last night in the audience, I felt a real emotion of pride that we are delivering such a high standard of innovative ballet in Australia.

If anyone’s seen it too, please let me know what you think!


mariel said...

Oh, how I wish the entire ballet were available to watch online - I'm too far away! I am really interested in seeing a new version of R&J as the handful of takes that I've seen have left me a bit cold. I went to a production of it last year and my friend turned to me at the end and said, "There isn't much DANCING in it, is there?"

Romeo and Juliet has the potential to be such a dynamic production, but I feel a lot of that energy has gotten sapped in the traditional stagings of the ballet that I've seen. How refreshing to see the Aussies breathing new life into it!

Miss Bibliophile said...

I've heard amazing things about Graeme Murphy's work and they appear to be true from these clips. I unfortunately missed the Australian Ballet when they did his Swan Lake in New York earlier this year, but hope to catch them next time they come this way.

Odessa said...

Ahhh..I love the music of R and J but I've never seen it live. Lucky you!

Looking Glass said...

I saw it in December in Sydney. It was magnificent. Took my breath away.

~ Clare x

Tracey said...

Sounds like a magical production ... and I do love seeing different interpretations of Shakespeare. I'm just sorry that I missed this when it visited Brisbane.

louise said...

Hi Hila,
Glad to hear you had a wonderful night. I completely and utterly loved this production. Quite right. Graeme Murphy is indeed a gem. xolj

Gracia said...

I second Louise. Lucky indeed. And I am looking forward to seeing his Swan Lake in 2013.

Glad you had the enjoyable time I knew you'd have. And I agree with you... "They sat well together last night, like a smooth combination of the old and the new." Hear, hear! So beautifully put.


Hila said...

Mariel: There was definitely a lot of dancing in this version. The story didn't overwhelm the choreography, and vice versa.

Miss Bibliophile: I heard they were brilliant in New York - judging from the reviews at least.

Odessa: I did feel very lucky!

Clare: I agree, it was fantastic.

Tracey; There's always next time!

Louise & Gracia: Thank you dears! It would have been even lovelier to got see it with you both.