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What if Juliet and Romeo didn't die? DanceEast show has the answers

PUBLISHED: 13:01 07 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:03 09 March 2019

"Juliet and Romeo: A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage" at the DanceHouse, Ipswich. Devised and performed by Ben Duke and Solene Weinachter. Photo by Zoe Manders

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It's a tale as old as time. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy but family and friends are not happy because there's bad blood between the two communities. Inevitably, there's conflict, then bloodshed and tragedy as our lovers end up dead.

"Juliet and Romeo: A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage", at the DanceHouse, Ipswich. Devised and performed by Ben Duke and Solene Weinachter. Photo: Jane Hobson.

This is the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but dancer-choreographer Ben Duke wonders: “What if there’s a different story? What if they don’t die? What would their lives have been like, had they lived?” This is the premise behind Lost Dog’s new dance performance Juliet & Romeo – which cleverly suggests a whole new world of storytelling by a simple reversal of the title.

The dance-drama is performed Ben and French dancer Solène Weinachter. This clever, funny production has been designed to explore contemporary culture’s ongoing celebration of youth and how it creates unrealistic expectations around love, sex and relationships.

Ben has also designed the piece to be performed in smaller spaces where the dancers can make a real connection with audiences. He thinks that the proximity of the audience in DanceEast’s studio theatre is perfect for their story.

“It’s a piece that allows people to consider the nature of their own relationships, something we could all do with reflecting on. We’re touring to theatres and traditionally non-theatre venues in the first six months of this year, so the DanceHouse on Ipswich Waterfront is perfect.

“I love the fact that people come along to see the show because it’s happening in their theatre or their village hall; they arrive with no expectations even though there are the names of two very famous literary characters in the title of the piece. I love the intimacy of smaller venues as well – there’s nowhere to hide.”

So how different is the story to the Shakespeare classic?

Lost Dog presents Lost Dog presents "Juliet and Romeo: A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage", at the DanceHouse, Ipswich. Devised and performed by Ben Duke and Solene Weinachter. Photo: Jane Hobson.

“I’ve allowed myself to imagine an alternate version to Shakespeare’s original: in this work Juliet and Romeo have been together for about 25 years and they are in something of a marital crisis. They love each other but sometimes they wish the other one were dead…the bloom of teenage romance has definitely faded but it still haunts them.

“Romeo is in the middle of a mid-life crisis; he is trying to let go of the passionate teenager he was and become a man. But he doesn’t have any clear idea what that man should look like so he is in limbo. Juliet is very attached to the extraordinary teenager she was and is finding the ordinariness of her current life a struggle.”

Ben said that the idea for the piece has haunted him for several years. “When I watch Romeo and Juliet I am always hoping that their timings will be a little different and Juliet will wake up a few moments earlier. I know she never will but I can’t help hoping for it. The idea for this piece came from allowing myself to imagine that alternate version.”

Ben Duke and Solene Weinachter in Juliet and Romeo- A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage at Ipswich DanceHouse Photo: Tristram KentonBen Duke and Solene Weinachter in Juliet and Romeo- A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage at Ipswich DanceHouse Photo: Tristram Kenton

He said that he hoped Juliet and Romeo will help redress the balance about love in popular culture. “Too many stories focus on how relationships start rather than how they continue. We need to be more honest about relationships in our culture.”

Juliet and Romeo, by Lost Dog, is being performed at DanceEast on Ipswich Waterfront on Friday March 8. More information and tickets can be gained online www.danceeast.co.uk/

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