Romeo and Juliet | West Australian BalletLeft – Sarah Hepburn and Gakuro Matsui. Cover – Matthew Lehmann. Photos – Sergey Pevnev

Shakespeare’s classic tale of two star-crossed lovers was brought to life last night by the West Australian BalletGakuro Matsui (Romeo) and Sarah Hepburn (Juliet) working with a cast of talented dancers to bring the Bard’s most famous tale alive. Innovatively choreographed and directed by Youri Vámos (a classically trained ballet dancer himself), this novel spin on Romeo and Juliet is a delight for the senses, employing his unique vision to create a contemporary take on a ballet that, given its familiarity to most viewers, could do with a bit of a dust-off.

Youri Vámos’ work often involves revised visions of classical works (his “Sleeping Beauty” became “Anastasia – the last daughter of the Romanov czars,” and Tchaikovsky´s Nutcracker recounts Dickens’ tale of Scrooge, the converted miser.) I was not familiar with this fact, and having failed to read the fine print on the website, was expecting a more classical approach to the tale, however Youri Vámos, has chosen to set his Romeo and Juliet in 1930s Italy in the same era in which Prokofiev was writing his much-loved score. Gone was the anticipated Italian Renaissance garb (no spandex pants, flouncy feathered bonnets or draping velvet gowns in sight), replaced by the waistcoats, top hats and tommyguns of the Italian Mafia.

This is only one way, however, in which Youri Vámos sets his own work apart from others. What is also unique is his employment of movements drawn from everyday life. The dancers are just as likely to complete difficult technical routines as they are to casually lean on each other, or strike a comical pose. It is perhaps due to this sense of verisimilitude that the viewer is able to be so fully immersed in the world Youri Vámos has created, and to empathise with each of his characters.

But a director/choreographer is nothing without talented dancers to bring his vision to life, and Youri Vámos has them in spades. The leads are terrific, not only for their technical capacity, but because their love scenes are genuinely moving, and manage to convey deeply felt emotions. The supporting cast of Alessio Scognamiglio (Benvolio), Matthew Lehmann (Tybalt) and Christopher Hill (Paris) are also excellent (André Santos is particularly good in his role as Mercutio, injecting some much needed comic relief into the play during his fight with Tybalt.)

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and this ballet is testament to the enduring relevance of the world’s most famous playwright. Youri Vámos’ Romeo and Juliet thrills – an engrossing and thoroughly captivating take on the literary classic, and a must-see for lovers of ballet and Shakespeare alike.

West Australian Ballet with WASO presents
Romeo and Juliet

Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre
Dates: 9 – 24 September
Tickets: $22 – $112

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