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'Romeo & Juliet Suite' set to explore hidden areas of the Sydney Opera House through stunning choreography

From the choreographer of the Academy Award-Winning film Black Swan, comes Benjamin Millepied's vivid reimagining of Shakespeare's tragic love story Romeo & Juliet.

Millepied, who co-founded the L.A. Dance Project, brings Romeo & Juliet Suite to the Sydney Opera House after a sold-out season in Paris. Romeo & Juliet Suite is a daring fusion of cinema, dance and theatre set to Sergei Prokofiev's score in which audiences will see three couples perform throughout the Sydney Opera House season, alternating diverse roles and relationships through state of the art technology. Boundaries between cinema and reality become blurred as audiences see the performance take shape both on and off the stage itself, utilising the Joan Sutherland Theatre and hidden parts of the Sydney Opera House itself to make Romeo & Juliet Suite an all-encompassing performance.

Theatre Thoughts spoke with Sébastien Marcovici, Associate Artistic Director of LA Dance Project and the camera operator for the Romeo & Juliet Suite about bringing the timeless tale to Australian audiences like you've never seen it before.

Romeo & Juliet Suite Banner. Image: Josh Rose
Romeo & Juliet Suite Banner. Image: Josh Rose

Can you tell us more about the concept of casting three different couples in the roles of Romeo and Juliet?

Sébastien: The story of Romeo and Juliet is already about a forbidden love, and in Benjamin’s version, he takes into consideration what that might mean for some people in today’s world as well. He wanted to represent all types of love in the casting and show their beauty. They all deserve acceptance and have a place in our world.

Sébastien Marcovici filming in 'Romeo & Juliet' suite. Image: Julien Benhamou
Sébastien Marcovici filming in 'Romeo & Juliet' suite. Image: Julien Benhamou

How does incorporating live filming and projection techniques enhance the show for audiences?

Sébastien: The idea is to take the audience to places in the theatre they are never shown, like many of the backstage areas or even some outdoor areas they do see but don’t expect our dancers to perform in. It serves as a way of showing two things at the same time - Juliet is dancing and we are able to see Romeo on film in a different location maybe thinking about an encounter they just had at the same time. The close up of the film is a way to bring the audience closer to the emotional aspect of the story, making it stronger and more for the viewer.

What challenges do the performers face when blending dance, theatre and cinema together in this production?

Sébastien: As the camera operator I try to minimize those challenges by letting them dance as if I wasn’t there as much it’s possible. Of course to create some of the beautiful cinematic shots, some moments need to be consistent and camera blocked, requiring the dancers to do some of the choreography at very specific places and in a specific way for the camera. The dancers do have to be aware of the camera as they are dancing to know where to be but also to be sure not to touch or hit the camera by accident which just adds one more element for them to focus on while dancing.

'Romeo & Juliet Suite'. Image: Julien Benhamou
'Romeo & Juliet Suite'. Image: Julien Benhamou

Could you elaborate on how parts of the performance will be set in hidden spaces around the Opera House?

Sébastien: Instead of using decor to change the appearance of the stage so that audience would know we have changed location, we can actually just go to a new location with the camera. It makes some of the actions more realistic and exciting. A chase will actually take you on a real run through different areas of the theatre, for example. Lovers will wander and find a magical place to be themselves and have an intimate moment.

How do you believe this unique staging enhances the audience’s experience of the classic Shakespearean tale?

Sébastien: I think it comes down to love, and any kind of love, allowing every audience member to be able to identify and connect with the characters. The staging and film aspect serve as a way to make the audience feel they are brought into the action, being right there with the characters of Shakespeare’s story that we all know so well.

'Romeo & Juliet Suite'. Image: Julien Benhamou
'Romeo & Juliet Suite'. Image: Julien Benhamou

Benjamin Millepied’s Romeo & Juliet Suite plays for a strictly-limited 6-show season from June 5-9 in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House.

Tickets begin from $109, with multi-packs available to see more than one performance. Book 2 shows and save 15%; Book 3 shows and save 30%.


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