In the ballet world, everyone wants to be Juliette, the same way they want to be Giselle and Odette / Odile de Swan Lake, and all the other classic great ladies.
But if there’s one Mme Capulet you can truly aspire to – whether or not you’re a principal dancer – then surely it’s the one in this rebooted and relocated version, Edward clug Radio and Juliet.
This one-act ballet, first performed in 2005 in Slovenia and using 11 pieces from Radiohead, essentially asks the question: “What would happen if Juliet didn’t die?” But it would be perfectly easy, if you were an alien who didn’t know the history of R&J, to watch it from start to finish and learn very little about the narrative or nuances of Shakespeare’s original.
Strange as it may sound, it hardly matters. Radio and Juliet is best understood as high class fan fiction. Or as a spinoff series that takes everyone’s favorite character and gives them their own mind-boggling storyline.
Performed in front of a somewhat brutalist wall by a troupe mainly made up of shirtless men in suits with thin legs, it presents the exact opposite visuals of The sumptuous and traditional Romeo and Juliet by Kenneth MacMillan. You feel like someone might take a segment of that ballet, film it, and use it to sell designer perfumes or fast cars.
The best part about Clug’s remix is that he’s less interested in What Juliet Did Next than in rewriting the character, period. Throughout, Juliet dances (metaphorically) to her own tune. Paired with Tyrone Singletonit’s Romeo, Yaoqian Shang‘s Juliet is never less than her equal.
Over and over they dance the same movements in unison: an image of equality, but it always feels like she is leading subtly. At others, she cuts sharp passages through the lines of identical men on stage, the attention of the entire show entirely directed to her.
Shang makes the vivid and slightly angular choreography extremely fun to perform. What’s impressive is how organic and laid-back it all feels – it’s not a worthy attempt at empowerment, as feminist rewrites of mainstream stories can often feel.
The creation of Clug is associated with the equally radical – but very different – approach of the Rosie Kay Company Romeo and Juliet.
Performed in front of a live orchestra, everything in this Birmingham work seems noticeably more precise than when it was premiered in early September. Together they form a fresh and very fun double bill.