Graeme Murphy’s new production of Romeo & Juliet is a visual delight. We gasped in awe as the curtain rose on the opening tableau – the lovers entwined within a conch shell, reminiscent of paintings of The Birth of Venus. From this entrancing start the scenes unfurl in subtle palettes of colour, notably mauve and emerald and silver. Juliet’s home – the icy domain of the Capulet family – is a constantly changing crystal palace, the colors and textures echoed in the extraordinary and beautiful costumes of designer Akira Isogawa.
Gerard Manion’s sets range across continents and religions, with Damien Cooper’s lighting and Jason Lam’s projection design enriching the stunning visuals. A golden background of desert hues illuminates the lovers’ secret marriage by a holy man. Within the temple, their union is sealed in an unforgettable radiant image, again using a circular embracing structure. With the action swinging between far-flung locations, narrative credibility is constantly being sacrificed for mood and dramatic effect. And yet the story is all the stronger for it, with powerful emotions underlined in visual imagery and dramatic tension heightened by starkly contrasted landscapes…
…Murphy, working with his creative associate Janet Vernon, excels here in the art of storytelling through visual imagery. The ballet soars beyond the confines of space and time and, although some of choreography stays too close to traditional forms, the huge emotional register of this mythical tale is expressed through ever-shifting visual metaphors and exquisite dancing.The Australian Ballet‘s Romeo and Juliet runs until September 24 in Melbourne’s State Theatre, then from December 2 until 21 at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Preparing the scenery, Lynette Wills
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.