Posts filed under: Romeo & Juliet


It’s opening night of Romeo & Juliet in Perth tonight! And with the star-crossed lovers heading west, we were irresistibly reminded of West Side Story, and particularly Jerome Robbins’ explosive choreography for the 1961 film version.

It’s hard to top the opening shots of the Jets prancing and clicking through the streets of New York, but we thought we’d pay tribute to the lesser-known but steamily good Mambo scene. Just as Graeme Murphy has emphasised the universality of the story by setting his Romeo & Juliet in a kaleidescope of different locations, Robbins brings Shakespeare’s passions and tensions into the present by turning the Capulet’s ball into a school dance, the warring families into rival gangs. It’s fiery Puerto Rican sass vs skittery white-boy Swing, with a side of classical bravura.

Want to enjoy Murphy’s version of this classic tale in Perth? Get your tickets quick – the season runs until 14 October.

10 October 2012

  • The first Juliet
  • The first Juliet
    Zora Semberova
  • The first Juliet

The first Juliet

In a suburban street in Adelaide, a 98-year old woman lives with her dog, Mischa. He’s the second dog in her life, following Sasa, named in memory of her former mentor in Prague.

Zora Semberova can’t see very clearly these days, and her grasp of English is fading, but music remains a vital part of her life. She loves to listen to ballet music in particular, but even without a CD playing, she can still hear Prokoviev’s score for Romeo and Juliet in her mind. Little wonder. Semberova was the first ballerina to dance the role of Juliet to Prokofiev’s score, more than 70 years ago. (more…)

23 May 2012

  • The changing face of Juliet
    Mary Saunderson
  • The changing face of Juliet
    Norma Shearer
  • The changing face of Juliet
    Olivia Hussey
  • The changing face of Juliet
    Claire Danes

The changing face of Juliet

Juliet Capulet: even the name has a melodic sound to it. There is something altogether enchanting about the heroine who takes her own life rather than live without her beloved Romeo. She is a young woman so determined and decided in her choices, while the rest of us struggle with what to eat for breakfast. Captured most famously by Shakespeare’s play, Juliet is a figure that has been revisited and reshaped over time – quite literally, as in the original Elizabethan England, she would have been played by a boy. (more…)

27 March 2012

Mercutio: Scene-Stealer
Daniel Gaudiello (centre) rehearsing Mercutio's death scene. Photography Lynette Wills

Mercutio: Scene-Stealer

Romeo and Juliet – the billing’s pretty clear. Romeo is the hero of this piece. But if that’s so, why does our attention so often drift to his super-cool best friend? The one with all the wit, the wordplay, the swagger? Here’s the case for a move to Team Mercutio.

Romeo might have the rep as the world’s greatest lover, but give me Mercutio. He’s the dasher, the dancer, the Cool-Hand Luke. Quite literally: Shakespeare built the character from an intriguing mention in Arthur Brooke’s The Tragical History of Romeo and Juliet, the source on which he based his play: (more…)

15 March 2012

  • Juliet plays Juliet: The performance!
    Usually, Juliet sees only "Burnett" on her costumes
  • Juliet plays Juliet: The performance!
    Juliet's dressing table crowded with well-wishes before the performance

Juliet plays Juliet: The performance!

It wasn’t for another week-and-a-half, after travelling to Sydney and the opening of The Merry Widow, that I could rehearse Romeo & Juliet again. But when the body isn’t rehearsing, the mind can. I knuckled down in full research mode. I watched the recording of Madeleine and Kevin’s show for the STVDIO broadcast to get a better understanding of the details that I know are so important to Graeme and Janet. My school copy of the play copped a leafing through like never before. I listened to Prokofiev’s score with deeper intent. Ideas about fleshing out the beauty of Shakespeare’s words – already powerfully explicit in the music – flickered in my head relentlessly. The hyperactivity was too much, so I rushed out and bought a Moleskine notepad, which was to become my lifeline for the next few weeks of preparation. (more…)

20 December 2011

  • Happily ever after: The Ballets Russes’ Romeo and Juliet
    Serge Lifar as Romeo, 1926
  • Happily ever after: The Ballets Russes’ Romeo and Juliet
    Scenery design by Jean Miró

Happily ever after: The Ballets Russes’ Romeo and Juliet

Tantrums and tears, catcalls and goggles, a visit from the police and a pink dressing gown slung on a peg. It could only be a scenario created by Diaghilev, the ringmaster of the Ballets Russes.

In 1926, Diaghilev orchestrated a surrealistic version of Romeo and Juliet in which the lovers elope, departing the stage by plane in leather coats and airmen’s caps, complete with goggles. The scenario may seem Monty Pythonesque, but the months before – and after – the ballet’s premiere were far from funny. Following the first performances in Monte Carlo, the Ballets Russes presented the work in Paris, where the opening night was disrupted by a riot. Diaghilev could not have been happier. He thrived on scandal and outrage. (more…)

5 December 2011