Radio and Juliet, choreographed by Edward Clug and performed by the West Australian Ballet, perfectly pairs Radiohead’s music with a contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s most famous love story. This is not the ballet of your Grandmother’s knowing. If the ubiquitous glow of iPhones held aloft had been present, you would be excused for thinking that a rock concert, not a ballet, had taken over His Majesty’s Theatre.
The ballet begins at the story’s end, with a grief-stricken Juliet – danced beautifully by West Australia’s own Brooke Widdison-Jacobs – choosing not to take her own life. From there, the performance takes a Quentin Tarantino-esque turn, jumping back to the tale’s beginning. A video montage of Juliet appears on the set’s simple screens, with vintage-style footage recounting the romantic experiences and relationships with men that have led her to this point. Principle Dancer Matthew Lehmann leads this troupe of six male performers, who each play a version of Romeo, fighting amongst one another for the love and attention of Juliet.
Radiohead’s pre-recorded music takes centre stage for the performance. Eleven of their songs are carefully curated to create an atmospheric, haunting, and despairing tone. Clug’s choreography perfectly complements this, through dancing that is jarring, angular, and punctuated by brief sequences of graceful movement. This contrast between punchy and fluid motion underlines the turbulent nature of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship. Marko Japelj’s set allows the dancing to speak volumes, with grungy, industrial looking screens providing a hauntingly simple backdrop for the performance.
The highlight of the evening was Widdison-Jacobs’ duet with Lehmann, set to Kid A‘s “How to Disappear Completely”. The song’s mournful tone foreshadows the doomed nature of their relationship, and is perfectly captured in their on-stage chemistry, as their bodies intertwine in a show of athletic elegance. The dancing was excellent throughout, with the only downside being that the sequences performed by the group of male dancers sometimes lacked the synchronisation expected from the WA Ballet.
The unanticipated pairing of indie rock and ballet was a pleasant surprise. Radiohead’s music gave the play new life, with their atmospheric tone setting the scene for a riveting ballet.
Words by Nic Monisse
Radio and Juliet runs at His Majesty’s Theatre from 14 – 22 September, and at the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre on 1 October. Tickets available here.