Romeo and Juliet
Review of a ballet based on the stage play by William Shakespeare
Venue: Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong
Part of the 41st Hong Kong Arts Festival
The Late Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s superbly choreographed version of Romeo & Juliet by the American Ballet Theatre provided an enriching evening of theatre. Adapting any works by Shakespeare for the stage is not for the faint hearted, but adapting one of his most celebrated plays for ballet where language is obsolete would be a challenge too far for many a lesser choreographer.
However, with the intense theatrical and psychological narrative of MacMillan’s adaptation one never feels the need to scramble for the script, so explicit is his storytelling through dance alone. Interestingly, Kevin McKenzie – the artistic director on the evening I attended – danced the role of Romeo when MacMillan staged the show when associate director of the American Ballet Theatre in the 1980s.
Spurred on by Prokofiev’s dramatic 1938 musical score, the troupe of artistes effortlessly delighted the audience with a performance full of energy and grace. The outpouring of grief by Juliet’s mother in Act II Scene 3 was particularly moving after Romeo kills her nephew to avenge the death of his friend, Mercutio, in the market place. Act III Scene 4 delivers the most touching performance of the evening when, in the final scene, Romeo dances with Juliet’s lifeless body in the family crypt. The simple elegance with which their entwined bodies ebbed and flowed together like liquid was nothing short of exquisite.
American Ballet Theatre’s mission is ‘to create, to present, to preserve and to extend the great repertoire of classical dancing’.
I think Shakespeare would have approved.