For the youth, by the youth
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet made an appearance at the Marlowe Theatre on 17 September. Filled with a youthful vibe, with movements hinted of a child-like nature, the show successfully combined profound emotions with the simplicity of juvenile thought. The ballet’s production team focused on bringing the stage closer to the younger part of the society, on tackling issues and behaviours which they can relate to. Neil Westmoreland, the professional cast and resident director explained to me a bit more about the ballet.
How difficult was it to stray from Prokofiev’s version?
We really wanted to do a very alternative version, which is quite typical of what Matthew Bourne does. He works with big classical ballets and big classical scores and does original works. In this vein of doing a spin on a classical ballet, we tend to go quite far from what the original classical version is. This was a youth project. It was all about finding something relevant for today’s youth culture, having young people in the cast and the creative team, so it was very youth driven. We wanted to find something relevant for today that young people will connect with and understand, and to make it pertinent to the culture that we are in at the moment. So that was a big driving force. We had a young female choreographer working alongside Matt, a young designer, a young composer and conductor, so all over the border there has been this development of a young cast. We have 6 local dancers under each venue, so as you can see it’s quite a huge undertaking.
Why was this project was so youth oriented?
I think it was an important thing to be doing right now. To be looking forward. What better story to use, than the story of two young people falling in love? It was one of the few classical ballet scores left, in terms of doing a different version. The song order is mixed up and is linked up in a very different way, which helped Matt and the team to tell the story about this world and the characters and build the tension to a correct moment. Without giving the story away, it’s not your typical Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet, but the two main protagonists are there and they do fall in love and it is a tragedy.
What do you take into consideration when choosing a cast?
Different factors. The quality of the movement, what kind of movers they are. Because each show has a very different feel to it, a lot of people are cast for lots of different reasons. I guess with Romeo and Juliet we knew it was going to be a very contemporary-based movement, a young show with young characters in. I suppose we were looking for young, interesting characters that moved in a very particular way.
What is your favourite part?
‘I love it all but I really like it when the story gets darker and Juliet has some amazing moments and some beautiful duets. Although it is difficult to watch people breaking their hearts every night. And the music is absolutely incredible, I know the score very well and it means a lot to me.’