This review is shorter than my usual drivel!
The Adelaide Entertainment Centre is an indoor sports stadium, and as such, is an extremely naff venue for watching ballet. I wasn't prepared to pay the $99 asking price for a ticket, but sales were not as expected (hardly surprising), and remaining seats were sold at $58, which I decided was much more acceptable. Even so, I would guess only 2700 of the 4000 available seats had been sold.
This Romeo and Juliet is the Derek Deane choreographed 'arena' production, which I believe has been seen in the Royal Albert Hall. The 'usual' choreography for R&J is fresh in my memory as the ABC showed a production danced by Nureyev and Fontaine recently on the TV. Apart from a few extra people in the market scene and some extra guests for Montagues and Capulets, I did not notice any major changes. There in lies my only quibble.
This is a fine production, but the venues chosen, that is performing in the round is a very bad idea. During the more intimate scenes, such as the balcony scene, the wedding by Father Lawrence, and the entire third act, the stage is very empty and the emotion generated dissipates before it reaches the viewer. This is a very emotional ballet, a story that I believe is part of the human condition, and whispers to each and every one of us. Surely even the most stone-hearted person feels some emotion by the end of the story? This 'arena' staging debars this.
Sitting waiting for the start of the piece (the term 'curtain-up' being not applicable in this case), I reflected on the layout of the performance area. The backdrop consists of two small towers, with a balcony on the front of each. At the base of the left one is a fountain and the right has a well. Jointing these is a wall. The centre contains a large double door, which a gatehouse above. There are two single doorways on each side. Stretching out in front of this small castle, is the dance floor. It looks about this size of the stage area at Covent Garden. Down the other end of the area sits the orchestra, in the performance I saw the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. They are surrounded by a little black fence; is this so they can't escape? Between the orchestra and the dance floor, sit three large rugs, gallantly attempting to fill the void.
Tonight I am to see Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks; the local press have been touting them as a real life Romeo and Juliet. I do hope the press is wrong! The rest of the cast is Dmitri Gruzdyev (Mercutio), Shi-Ning-Lu (Tybalt), Yosvani Ramos (Benvolio), Nathan Coppen (Paris), Jane Haworth (Lady Capulet), Paul Lewis (Lord Capulet) and Mary Miller (Nurse). Quite a cast!
The opening market scene seemed very messy to me. Scattered around were stalls; during the course of the dance these were dragged to the back, in front of the castle. The sword play looked uninspired. With all that available space, something befitting an Errol Flynn movie was called for, rather than the usual linear fencing. OK so Romeo did jump briefly on a table, but it wasn't exciting enough.
In an attempt to fill some of the empty space around the dance floor, projections onto the floor were used. There was some cobble paving for the market scene, heraldic lions for the ball, leave for the garden scene and windows for Juliet's bedroom and the chapel.
The Montagues and Capulets ball scene was the only time that I felt the production managed to till the space. Prokofiev's score has plenty of ummph and I think that added to the grandeur. There was some interesting patterns here, lines that crossed and a star shape spring to mind. The finale with Juliet hoisted high in the centre of the throng, while Romeo runs laps around the edge, cape billowing behind is obvious but effective.
Amid much clattering and squeaking a balcony is wheeled through the big double doors for the most famous scene in the ballet. One would think that they would have used either of the balconies on the castle. They were probably trying to get this intimate scene closer to the audience. Well to me it still looked four miles away, so they needed have bothered.
During the letter-delivering scene, the market again attempted to fill the space. There were some children from local ballet schools in this scene to bolster numbers; they did not appear in the first. Time for Trog to peer though the binocs and play spot the dancer that I knew. I recognised Joanne Clarke, Simone Clarke, Joanna Maley and Fernando Oliviera. The big fight here was perhaps a bit less lost, or perhaps I was just getting used to the space.
For the crypt lots of monks parade in, each carrying a candle. Juliet is placed on the podium, the monks ground their candles and exit. The image of Juliet surrounded by these candles is very pretty.
I did actually like the production. There is some very fine dancing. Miss Oaks uses her arms very well; the arms are a very important part of ballet and sometimes look a bit sloppy. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to keep those arms up and keep them soft. Miss Oaks does it so well. There is a very pure quality to her Juliet. Mr. Edur is fine dancer too. He is so light on his feet; they are no thumps when he lands from one of his jumps, except when he hit that dodgey area on the dance floor.
A damn fine production but an awful venue. This production should be seen in a 'proper' theatre. No changes are necessary to accomplish this in my opinion.