In a world of change and turmoil there’s something incredibly comforting about the familiar. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s iconic story of star-crossed lovers needs no explanation. The narrative is as recognisable as a fairy tale, its tragedy is as heartbreaking as it was on first viewing. This classic piece with choreography John Cranko, first produced by The Australian Ballet in 1974 is again stunning audiences with its fluidity and romance in 2022.
Romeo and Juliet comes at a time of change within The Australian Ballet as Libby Christie AM, steps down as Executive Director and Lissa Twomey take on the role as announced on Friday. What’s more, as Artistic Director David Hallberg explained on opening night, all the dancers (with the exception of Steven Heathcote AM as Lord Capulet) were making their debuts that evening, breathing new life into both the company and the choreography.
Set to Sergei Prokofiev’s emotive score, Romeo and Juliet is a rollercoaster of love, loss, vengeance, and remorse, and surges through the very heart of the narrative. Stepping into the role of Romeo Callum Linnane approached the character with all the energy and exuberance of teenager in love, his playful charm shone throughout the performance, particularly alongside the sweet Benvolio (Cameron Holmes) and joyously comical Mercutio (Brett Chynoweth). Christopher Rodgers-Wilson was delightfully awkward as Lord Paris and Terese Power was perfectly cast as the Nurse.
But the night belonged to Juliet, played to perfection by Sharni Spencer, her footwork was elegant, agile, and grace personified. Spencer underplayed the role, giving Juliet a wholesome lightness and subtle buoyancy that balanced the darker themes in Act 3.
Jürgen Rose’s costumes were in step with the passion fuelled choreography, taking inspiration from tradition but giving it The Australian Ballet flair, particularly in the second acts’ marketplace scene. Colour and texture were abundant, adding an extra layer of movement and interest to the performance.
I simply cannot fault this production, three hours and three acts disappeared into what felt like minutes, and I was spellbound by the classic tale brought to life with clarity, beauty, and artistry. Romeo and Juliet is a classic for a reason, and it poses the question “how far would you go for love?” It is a heightened romance only imaginable in the hearts of the young, yet it remains etched in our minds regardless of time, space, or circumstance. Quite simply, it’s timeless.
The Australian Ballet presents
Romeo and Juliet
Choreography John Cranko
Venue: State Theatre | Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 7 – 18 October 2022
with Orchestra Victoria