ROMEO + JULIET | Hong Kong, Cultural Centre Grand Theatre

Hong Kong Ballet’s brand new production, choreographed by artistic director Septime Webre, sets Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy against the backdrop of 1960s Hong Kong. Just like a classic movie, the hyper-drama is no-holds-barred: the dance is world-class, but it’s the theatre that makes this production so devastating.

In the final scene, Romeo (Shen Jie) drags the lifeless body of Juliet (Venus Villa) around her tomb, weeping that they can no longer dance as they did before. This could so easily be crass and unmerited, but in the context of this bamboo-and-neon universe, with Prokofiev’s cataclysmic score played with such panache by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta (conducted by Wing-sie Yip), the results are breathtaking.

The only scene that threatens to upstage this is when Juliet’s cousin Tai Bo (Garry Corpuz) stabs Romeo’s bisexual bessie Little Mak (Ma Renjie): he’s a dead man, but Little Mak continues to wave to the crowd, and dance the same comic harlequin trio with Romeo and Benny (Lin Chang-yuan), only now stumbling and faltering from the pain. With a slow, difficult kiss on Romeo’s mouth, he dies.

The ensemble scenes are truly a sight to behold, with the iconic “Dance of the Knights” set to pacy, plunging choreography. The opening, Broadway-style group number doesn’t work because it doesn’t match the music, but the whiplash tumbling in a Mahjong parlour in the second half is well worth waiting for. The spectacle; the tragedy: it’s quite literally a roaring success.

Playing 18 – 20 June 2021 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.

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