Romeo & Juliet

Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®, Auckland

23/07/2008 - 27/07/2008

Regent On Broadway, Palmerston North

18/07/2008 - 19/07/2008

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

20/08/2008 - 24/08/2008

Production Details

A "world class” production – Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet opens to acclaim

CRITICS are raving about the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Romeo & Juliet which opened in Palmerston North last week, calling it a "world class production".  Often described as one of the world’s greatest love stories, the Shakespearean classic follows two young lovers caught between their warring families.

Set to Prokofiev’s dramatic score, the RNZB’s production of Romeo & Juliet stars guest dancers Amy Hollingsworth and Cameron McMillan in the lead roles. Both former RNZB dancers now based in London, the duo will make their anticipated return to the stage tonight in Auckland.

Choreographed by Christopher Hampson (Cinderella), this highly visual and sleek production is inspired by the look of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Baz Luhrmann’s film version of the tragic tale.

Designed by Auckland’s Tracy Grant Lord, it features a dynamic colour palette, the more than 200 costumes look as if they have been lifted from the pages of Vogue magazine.

Following its successful 2003 debut season in New Zealand, the RNZB’s Romeo & Juliet toured the UK where it received a prestigious Laurence Olivier award nomination for Best New Production.

Romeo & Juliet opens at Auckland’s Aotea Centre at THE EDGE tonight. It will then tour to Napier, Invercargill, Christchurch and Wellington.

"The [RNZB]  have surpassed themselves in delivering a world class performance brilliantly conceived and given contemporary relevance"
John Daly-Peoples, National Business Review

"Outstanding" Manawatu Standard

"If this were the only Romeo and Juliet I ever saw, I’d die happy" The Independent, UK

Romeo & Juliet performance dates 

PALMERSTON NORTH – Regent on Broadway
Featuring the Vector Wellington Orchestra
Friday 18 July 7:30pm
Saturday 19 July 6:30pm
Book at TicketDirect 0800 484 253
Adult $45 – $75;  Child $27 – $45
Concession $40.50 – $67.50 

AUCKLAND – Aotea Centre at THE EDGEā
Featuring the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Wednesday 23 July 7:30pm
Thursday 24 July 7:30pm
Friday 25 July 7:30pm
Saturday 26 July 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Sunday 27 July 6:30pm
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538
Adult $35 – $85;  Child $21 – $51
Concession $31.50 – $76.50

NAPIER – Municipal Theatre
Friday 1 August 7:30pm
Saturday 2 August 7:30pm
Sunday 3 August 6:30pm
Book at TicketDirect 0800 484 253
Adult $45 – $65;  Child $27 – $39
Concession $40.50 – $58.50

INVERCARGILL – Civic Theatre
Thursday 7 August 7:30pm
Friday 8 August 7:30pm
Saturday 9 August 7:30pm
Book at ICC Booking Office 03 211 1692
Adult $35 – $55;  Child $21 – $33
Concession $31.50 – $49.50

CHRISTCHURCH – Isaac Theatre Royal
Featuring the Christchurch Symphony 
Wednesday 13 August 7:30pm
Thursday 14 August 7:30pm
Friday 15 August 7:30pm
Saturday 16 August 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538
Adult $47 – $77;  Child $28.20 – $46.20
Concession $42.30 – $69.30

WELLINGTON – St James Theatre
Featuring the Vector Wellington Orchestra 
Wednesday 20 August 7:30pm
Thursday 21 August 7:30pm
Friday 22 August 7:30pm
Saturday 23 August 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Sunday 24 August 6:30pm
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538
Adult $35 – $85;  Child $21 – $51
Concession $31.50 – $76.50

Thought-provoking and emotional experience

Review by Jasmine Williams, Young & Hungry Ambassador - Wellington East Girls' College 02nd Sep 2008

The atmosphere was so overwhelming as I entered the St James Theatre with the most outstanding clothes which made me more noticeable amongst the crowd of hundreds gathered together to enjoy the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company’s Romeo and Juliet.  We walked elegantly up stairs to our seats while we were being filmed by the crew from TV3 news. Everybody looked fit for a ball. I got to my seat, ready to enjoy a night of amazing ballet.

I was so overwhelmed by all the performance aspects of the ballet. The choreography was thought-provoking by the contrasts of big and small movement and the way the performers moved to show that emotion. For example, when Juliet is forced to marry, she uses a lot of fast paced, stronger movements to convey that she disagrees.

The set was like nothing I have ever seen in a live performance. The detailed set was always changing to suggest a different time of day and a change of setting. I particularly liked the effect of Juliet’s bed as a intimate, private space, but also a coffin after she dies. The set also helped to make sense of what was happening in each scene.

The use of costume determined who were the very important characters in each scene, for example, Romeo and Juliet both have red clothing to symbolise love and passion. The chorus are dressed in uniform so that it doesn’t take away from the main characters. Red is also a symbol of blood and death when Romeo kills Tybalt after the fatal death of Romeo’s closest friend, Mercutio.

The music also determined emotions within the whole ballet; an important aspect to the performance as a whole.

I do not study much Shakespeare and my thoughts beforehand were boredom, but after watching it, I realise I have a crush on Shakespeare and I adore this play. It was very thought provoking and I couldn’t help but cry throughout the entire show.

I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen a ballet before, generally loves Shakespeare or just anybody who loves a good old cry. It was brilliant!
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News


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All elements in harmony

Review by Ann Hunt 25th Aug 2008

Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet was first choreographed for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company in 2003. That production was lauded both in New Zealand and in London, where it garnered a nomination for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.  With this revival it is easy to see why. It is a beautiful cohesion of music, choreography, set, costume and lighting designs, with all elements in harmony with each other.

Hampson’s articulate choreography matches Prokofiev’s sublime music perfectly. The latter is eloquently played by the Vector Wellington Orchestra under the skilled and sensitive baton of Michael Lloyd.

The bedroom pas de deux in Scene I, Act 3, is particularly memorable for its passion and great sweeping lifts and turns.  The fight scenes throughout are also given a dangerous edge and are extremely well danced.

Tracy Grant Lord’s set and costume designs are superb. Primarily in shades of black, white and red, the colours work symbolically as well as visually and underline the ancient feud between the Capulets and the Montagues and its bloody outcome. The long fall of red curtain in the ball scene is particularly evocative.

However, all of the above would be to little avail were the central performances not up to the same high standard. Amy Hollingsworth and Cameron McMillan are a brilliant pairing. They know each other well and this shows in the supreme confidence of the duets.  Hollingsworth gives the strongest performance we have yet seen from her in New Zealand, and possibly, of her career so far. With her pure, clear, classical line, arching back and feet, her devotion to contemporary work is classical ballet’s loss.

As Juliet she is incandescent – headstrong and passionate, she beautifully conveys the way a fourteen year old girl of that period, might act when pushed to extremes. This is a daring and reckless performance. Her beating of the bedroom walls after her parents have told her she must marry Paris is so loud we can hear it in the stalls – I hope she doesn’t hurt her arms! The slumping despair that follows it is very moving.

She attacks the soaring lifts and passionate turns in Romeo’s arms with a glorious abandon that will linger long in the memory. As will her awakening in the crypt and her pas de deux with Romeo as he tries to awaken her lifeless body. Both scenes grip and hold with the ring of truth.

Cameron McMillan’s Romeo is all we could wish for technically. He is a stunning dancer with, like Hollingsworth, a beautiful classical line, good elevation and tight, neat landings. He is also a skilled and sensitive partner and as handsome as the day.

However the role in this ballet is a difficult one, as unlike the text, it is definitely weighted choreographically towards that of Juliet. Nevertheless McMillan has some fine moments: the fight with Mercutio is daring and excitingly danced; the camaraderie between himself, Mercutio and Benvolio is nicely caught and his pas de deux with the dead Juliet is very fine. If he could deepen the emotional depth of the role even further, his Romeo would be one to remember.

As Mercutio, Jo Funaki is a great favourite with the audience who love his cheeky irreverent aplomb. This is an excellent performance but the character, as portrayed by Hampson, is too one dimensional for my taste. It is too overtly clown-like and the darker dimension of the role is not plumbed.

The Company dancers rise to the occasion and all the characters are convincingly portrayed. Clytie Campbell as Lady Capulet, looks ravishing, if a trifle young, and handles Tybalt’s death with conviction, while Vivencio Samblaceno Jr as Lord Capulet makes a gravely realistic father.

Qi Huan is an impressive Tybalt; Turid Revfiem a loving Nurse and Sir John Trimmer as Escalus and Friar Lawrence brings an essential gravitas to the dual roles.

Later that night, I fall asleep with Prokofiev’s wonderful music swirling through my head and visions of Juliet’s soaring arabesques lifting my heart. Bravos all round!


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Dark forces

Review by Francesca Horsley 04th Aug 2008

Choreographer Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, is -compelling theatre, an outstanding ballet. Reworked from his 2003 flamboyant original, it is more sinister, the characterisation and physicality sharper. Guest -artists Amy Hollingsworth and Cameron -McMillan bring a mesmeric depth to the -production.

Hampson has taken the accelerator off his original mix of Italian 1940s fascism and 1960s la dolce vita; the miniskirts, stilettos, outlandish hats and masks are still there – but this rendering is more restrained, truer to Shakespeare’s deep vision of the dark forces that shatter human desire.

An ominous tone pervades the ballet …[More


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Dancers turn tale of woe into triumph

Review by Bernadette Rae 25th Jul 2008

This Romeo and Juliet, minted in 2003 by Christopher Hampson for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in its 50th jubilee year, was a triumph here and in England, where it received a Laurence Olivier nomination for Best New Dance Production.

It surpasses itself in this return season. Tracy Grant Lord’s design is dramatically riveting. The huge set of flat planes and hard surfaces revolves between black and white, symbolic of the light but mostly dark sides of life in feud-worn Verona, watched over by a huge and pock-marked moon. [More]
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Memorable dancing marred by distracting design elements

Review by Felicity Molloy 24th Jul 2008

The Aotea Centre is becoming a comfy setting for dance programmes that seem to be more frequent than I ever remember them. I still do not know all the faces there – this, oddly enough, surprises me a little, as I have lived in this city for twenty odd years and have been to most dance events. Ballet audiences are growing? Dance audiences are growing? The New Zealand Arts strategy is working?

The marketing office of the Edge is right on the money… It’s good! A nearly capacity crowd, which means that the Film Festival, running concurrently in Auckland, is not dampening our entertainment spending dollar choices. And we get to see our very own ballet company.

The two special guests, Australian artist Amy Hollingsworth and New Zealander Cameron McMillan, are returned dancers, with a checklist of credentials to support what can only be described as “excellent performances” in two of the lead roles.

Hollingsworth is a beautiful, light technician, matured into a precisely controlled fluidity. Hard to tell her lineage really with foot placement at once elegant and abandoned. Her body arches and flips in the air with the grace of a tiny bird. This same fragility at times renders her less like a teenager in love. Otherwise choreographic simplicity keeps her well within the ballet’s narrative.

Both of these dancers play out a more treasured love as opposed to the awakening passion of first, untried and true. Romeo (McMillan) performs with equal technical detail, no false landing, no line out of place. His work provides subtlety and depth to the various male trios.

Frequent divergent costuming choices muddles the role of this fine artist. I desperately want him out of his shiny pants and into dance clothes which speak more of the shifts in his character. By Act Three he has captured tenderness, shades first sketched in the opening scene of Act One.

Mercutio (Jo Funaki) more fully negotiates a much needed link between dance artistry and essential gestural clarity on which this ballet’s choreography and production depends. He is funny, tragic, friendly, passionate, ridiculous and above all immensely focused. It is sometimes hard to know whether dancers go through the same detailed synopsis that actors do in their first readings of a play, or if we are expected to previously know the play ourselves.

If the second part is the case, this production of Romeo and Juliet relies rather heavily on our impressions and memories of West Side Story and possibly the Baz Lerhman (1996) film version.  To quote a line from Shakespeare, “Two households both alike in dignity…” Playing families, both traditionally aristocratic, as at two ends of our social “gangsta derived” spectrum add a dimension that distracts rather than assists. Other than for Tybalt’s entrance, eclectic costuming eras (Tracy Grant Lloyd) and coloured washes in the lighting design (John Rayment) mar the distinction of a dancerly production.

Hampson’s choreographic details written into the programme reveal that careful thought has been put into this tragedy unfolding. The four dancers, Hollinsgworth, McMillan, Turid Redveim (Juliet’s Nurse) and John Trimmer (Friar Laurence) bespeak its inevitability well, both in the beautiful sombre wedding scene and the handing over of the sleeping potion. The artist in Grant Lord is made evident in the basket weave wall of the chapel cross. The company otherwise relies more heavily on volatile gestures and ensemble patterns and weaves.

This time round, The New Zealand Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet is memorable because of the lovely dancing and, as Artistic Director, Gary Harris aptly notes in the programme introduction, “celebrates the love and passion of the many people who over the years have made this company what it is today”.


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Sexy, accessible and engaging

Review by Richard Mays 23rd Jul 2008

Opulence, decadence, action, and a whiff of Armani provided the stylish setting for this vivid extravaganza of movement, colour, coordination, and characterisation. It’s not often the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company comes to Palmerston North with an orchestra, and for the city to host a season premiere is even rarer. The only downside to Friday evening’s opening of Romeo and Juliet was the unavailability of returning overseas star Amy Hollingsworth through injury, and therefore her dance partner Cameron McMillan.

In their place Qi Huan and Katie Hurst-Saxton were commendable as the world’s most famous ill-starred lovers. Hurst-Saxton brought wide-eyed youthful innocence, grace, and a touch of willfulness to her role, with Huan allowed his move-over-Dan-Carter moment during the semi-clad bedroom scene. If anything, this "boxer-shorts pas de deux" gave the audience an eye-opening insight into the outstanding physical conditioning required to be a dancer at this level.

Jo Funaki’s impish and acrobatic Mercutio was a crowd-pleaser as he tested and teased the menacing Tybalt of Paul Matthews, although unlike Tybalt, he spent a long time a-dying. Fought with knives, metal bars, baseball bats, and quickstep agility, the street brawls were among the choreographed highlights. They were matched by the set piece eloquence of the grand masked ball to Prokofiev’s imposingly redolent theme. The level of playing throughout from the Vector Orchestra echoed the overall excellence of the production.

For all its style and sophistication, Verona is alive with dark undercurrents, and this production captured its edgy nuances . There were hints of domestic violence, as Lord and Lady Capulet resorted to threatening behaviour against their daughter when she refuses to accept Paris as her suitor. There’s an adulterous liaison between Lady Capulet and Tybalt, and roaming thugs who are not averse to wrecking a neighbourhood street wedding during a stoush.

Tracy Lord Grant’s contemporary design allowed the scenes to flow, and gave the dancers interesting spaces and levels where they could retell this timeless story in avant-garde couture, and heels.

In 2005, the previous (2003) incarnation of this production was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Production after its successful tour of the UK. By all recollections, this is at least that show’s equal – and probably its superior. This Romeo and Juliet is sexy, accessible and engaging. Magnificent.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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