The curtains go up and the ominous overture of Prokofiev’s famous score resounds throughout the theatre, foreshadowing the tragic end to the epic love story of Romeo and Juliet. The piece opens with Death leading four monks carrying the body of a “dead” Juliet and from this moment on, the audience is transported into the realm of family disputes and forbidden love.
Robin van Wyk, the choreographer of this production, brings his own take on the tale of Romeo and Juliet and sweeps the audience along in its grandeur – his stylings serving to freshen a theatrical classic. The fast pace of the piece holds the audience’s attention, never allowing them to get distracted from the epic love story unfolding on the stage. His characters are portrayed by the stars of the Cape Town City Ballet, who move through Van Wyk’s complicated lifts and presages with ease.
Van Wyk’s style of choreography is purely classical and yet there are twists in the take of certain movements in order to incorporate a fresh look. “The most important thing for me is for the audience not to get bored,” says van Wyk. “I keep you racing through this amazing love story.” This has resulted in a piece which is rid of any excess and instead brings to the forefront the love story between Romeo and Juliet. The audience is swept away by the emotion and adrenaline rush of the story. “From the moment you sit down to the moment they die, you’re almost holding your breath,” explains van Wyk.
Most of the costumes come from the CTCB wardrobe except for the costumes of Romeo, Juliet and the character of Death. The costumes are gossammer in their design in order to highlight the movement of the dancers bodies through the material. “I wanted everything soft and summery,” explains van Wyk. “Because I think of Romeo and Juliet as a summer ballet – the heat and the passion of summer in Verona.”
When asked how does his production of Romeo and Juliet contribute to the overarching National Arts Festival 2018 theme of Voices and Silences, van Wyk explains that, in his choreography, women are the strength of his ballets. He sees the women of this country as sensitive, more in tune to their surroundings and has chosen to embody these traits in his portrayal of Juliet. “She is the driving force of this ballet, the decision maker,” van Wyk explains. “Romeo is actually the lovesick fool but she makes the decisions and that’s what the women of South Africa do.” He also explains that he is passionate about creating ballets based on strong women and so he intents to promote womanhood through his choreography.
Robin van Wyk’s take on Romeo and Juliet is nothing short of captivating. He builds the story of these two lovers from their discovery of each other, through their childlike love, to the banishment of Romeo and ultimately the fateful climax of both their deaths. He makes the audience fall in love with idea of love again.
By Rughsaar Bibi Ismail