Romeo and Juliet – 2008

August 27, 2008 at 7:18 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was originally not going to see this ballet, a trial viewing of a DVD recording of a more classic version, resulted in a decision not to go. But I at the end of the show I was glad I went.

Aug 24, 2008 by Show_Hanger

This ballet was originally choreographed by Christopher Hampson in 2003 for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 50th Anniversary. The setting and costumes are not the classic 17th century setting; instead the setting is more contemporary – post 19th century. Hampson has recast the story somewhat and given it some deeper nuances. The work is one that one might have expected from Matthew Bourne – with the greatest repect to both choreographers; it is a throroughly modern ballet.

The Capulets and Montagues have been cast onto two sides of a class divide. The Capulets are shown in wealthy circumstances – all be it with some serious street muscle on-call. The Montagues are hardly shown at all; they may have money, but Romeo (Qi Huan) seems to have the run of the streets – maybe he just feels more comfortable away from the more confining surrounds of his unseen family. The clash between the Caplulets and the Montagues is subtly subverted into a clash between the free spirits of the streets and the constricted family setting of honour and duty.

Tybalt is portrayed brilliantly, by Paul Mathews, as an angry young man consumed by the need to protect his family honor. As such he is very much the force driving the conflict, and is the catalyst of much of the violence. He was the one who supplied the forboding menace on the streets and at the Capulet family ball. So it comes a bit of a surprise to see him killed by Romeo.

Romeo and his two companions (Mercutio and Benvolio) come across as a set of self absorbed young men looking for diversion and some fun mischief – fairly harmless and annoying. Baiting Tybalt and his street heavies; siding with the people who can’t really stand up to them, seems like a bit of heroic fun, that eventually leads to Mercutio’s accidental slaying.

Romeo is not really interested in revenge, but Tybalt drives him into a frenzy and he is killed.

Juliet (Katie Hurst-Saxon) has the hardest role: she is still young, but expected to take on some of the duties of an adult – her family expect her to marry Paris, perhaps to cement a wider family alliance; she is loyal to her family; she marries against her family’s wishes – in secret; Romeo kills Tybalt – her older cousin, and a favourite; she loves Romeo, on and on and on. Juliet and her two friends are the innocents in this story. They have a nurse (Turid Revfeim) who’s job is to look after and protect them. Nurse is probably the one human figure in the household. Juliet’s parents seem to be duty bound figures.

Juliet is ultimately torn by duty and love, and seeks a third way out – she will fake her suicide. And so the young lovers kill themselves due to that fateful mis-delivered message. (Surely, a phone company or courir company will us this as the basis for an advertisement – ‘use X when that message has to get there on time’!)

Hampson injects a new sub-plot: Lady Capulet and Tybalt are secretly lovers! Here we see a facet of the adult world that Juliet tragically never discovers. Juliet’s own mother shows that duty can be worn like a suit of clothes – put on in public and taken off in private. Juliet should have married Paris and met very discretely with Romeo!

Hampson cleverly puts Juliet and her friends on point, and no one else, to emphasize their innocent nature.

Sir Jon Trimmer (Friar Lawrence) and Turid Revfeim turn in wonderful performances to give their characters some depth. Gary Harris and Greg Horsman even put charming cameo roles – as monks. Jo Funaki got the biggest round of applause – for his portrayal of the mischevious Mercutio – during the curtain call.

Tracy Grant Lord’s set was clever and created the right atmosphere – well up to meeting the challenge of creating: street scenes, a grand ball, Juliet’s bedroom, a church, and a tomb. A stair case does wonderful quadruple duty. Verona must be truly a magical place because it was just massive.

Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet is accessible, without being shallow.


My only disappointment was that I did not get to see Amy Hollingsworth and Cameron McMillan dance in the lead roles. So much of the production publicity had been crafted around them. Given my DVD fueled misgivings of Romeo and Juliet, I went because I wanted to see them dance.

I went on the last night of the season, so if you missed it, catch it in 3-4 years when it comes around again.


Olympic Hockey: NZ v China

August 18, 2008 at 6:24 am | Posted in Sporting Event | Leave a comment
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Despite vows to go to bed early, I stayed up and watched the New Zealand men’s team play China in the 2008 Olympic Hockey Competition

New Zealand needed to win this game to make their path to the semi-final playoffs a realistic one.

August 17, 2008 by

Hockey Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
New Zealand

A hugely disappointing game for New Zealand. They started slowly, never really took control of the game and were thwarted by a frantic Chinese defence.

Going into this game China were at the bottom of Pool A – having lost all their games. One can’t help thinking that New Zealand subconciously expected to turn up and collect 3 points for the win. China, in front of thousands of screaming fans, took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored two goals in the first 15 or so minutes – 2 penalty corners; 2 well executed strikes (by Yi Song – the captain). This was like every other game that they had played ! always scoring the first goal, but loosing in the end.

New Zealand started slow and never really recovered. Yes, they had most of the pocession, but you don’t get points for near misses. They did not convert one penalty corner – 3 excellent saves by the Chinese goalkeeper (Rifeng Su) kept them out. Much to New Zealand’s credit they did get two goals back – both from field play – one from a cross (Simon Child) and one from a defensive error by China. New Zealand would have lost this game against a better side – the equaliser came from a loose Chinese clearance that went straight to Shea McAleese who drilled it inside the right hand post. A better side would not have become trapped for long periods of time inside their own half.

China mounted a spirited defence – at times it was not very elegant, at times it was not very subtle, at times they may have crossed the line – why wouldn’t they ? They had previously lost 2-5 to South Korea, when they had been 2-0 up. They were winning and did everything that was not illegal (and sometimes illegal) to slow and frustrate the New Zealanders. It almost worked.

So well done New Zealand for coming back from 0-2 down.

Not so good China: they should have been able to hold out for a win.


Now New Zealand are in trouble; the path to the semi-finals now requires them to beat Germany – who are ranked number 1 in the world. The loss to Spain in the final seconds and two early goals to China may just have ended New Zealand’s chances of a semi-final playoff. Still, if they can have a loose game, maybe Germany will too – this is sport afterall!

Prince of the Pagodas

August 11, 2008 at 1:42 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Over three long nights I watched this DVD of the Royal Ballet’s 1990 production of The Prince of the Pagodas. Warning – contains plot details.

Aug 7, 2008 by Show_Hanger

Prince of the Pagods has a strong story going for it: a contested kingdom; sibling rivalry; competition for a woman’s hand in marriage; fighting for the woman you love’ and more. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version features some very good dancers: Darcy Bussell, Jonathan Cope, Simon Rice and Fiona Chadwick. Yet, it did not engage me; I was not held in thrall – certainly not in the way Romeo and Juliet does. I feel that the ballet was let down by the music. The music was generally uninspiring; It just did not enhance and support the emotional elements of the story.

This was the first time that I had seen Dacry Bussell dance. Some years ago I read her biography, and was very pleased to find this DVD at the library. She is a joy to watch; she is svelt, not skinny; she graceful, yet athletic – wonderful jumps; her arabeques are a joy to behold; no wonder she was MacMillan’s muse!

Act I sets the scene. The king divides his kingdom between his daughters – Princess Rose (Bussell) and her half sister Princess Epine (Chadwick). Unfortunately, it is not an equal division; Princess Epine is given a smaller portion, and it is clear that she is not happy. Four foreign kings arrive in search of brides. During the ensuing ‘struting’, Princess Epine ousts her father and takes the crown from him. Princess Epine turns Princess Rose’s fiance – The Prince (Cope) – into a salamander and transports him from the kingdom.

Act II seems to one long dream sequence. Princess Ross, accompanied and assisted by the court fool (Rice), searches for the Prince. She rejects the four kings and her perserverance is rewarded – she finds the prince and her love returns him to human form.

Act III see things set right. Princess Rose and the Prince return to her father’s kingdom – now ruled by Princess Epine. In a series of superbly choreographed gritty fights, the Prince vanquishes the four foreign kings. The king is restored. Princess Epine is banished. Princess Rose and the Prince marry – or at least formally engaged.

This ballet has a unique piece of choreography – a pas de deux with one dancer ! The king of the east dances with himself – constantly looking at himself in a handmirror!

I think the ballet was staged at Covent Garden and filmed by the BBC in 1990.


Aug 7, 2008 by DVD_Hanger

The DVD had two items on it: the Ballet and a documentary –Out of Line – on the life of Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The DVD helpfully puts a summary at the beginning of each Act.

The documentary was facinating. We see MacMillan as a dancer. We see three of the dancers he has used as instruments to aid his choreography – his muses: Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri and Darcy Bussell. The first two are interveiwed, Seymour extensively; but Bussell not at all for some reason.

The documentary covers much of MacMillan’s career as a choreographer, though how objective it is I don’t know. But it appears to have been pretty controversial. MacMillan seems to have been constantly at odds with the traditionalists and the critics!

The DVD is worth getting out for the documentary alone.


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