I was with a bunch of friends from ballet class, celebrating the end of our exams. We were all dressed up and off to the theatre to see The West Australian Balletʼs Romeo & Juliet. It was my first experience of Shakespeare.
To be honest, I can barely remember the costumes the ballerinas wore, nor can I tell you what the set looked like and I only know the story because being so famous – itʼs almost impossible to not know the ending. But I can remember the music, clear as day. The stirring strength and formality of the Capulet ball, the soft, sweet lullaby-like pas de deux of the balcony scene. It told the story more clearly than many productions, full of text and fabulous sets, that I have seen since. Surprisingly it seems the talking can get in the way sometimes. Music I think, has the incredible ability to reach in and touch us at our core, the centre of what makes us human, and move us in ways we canʼt really describe. Itʼs such a wonderful means of storytelling. The proof I suppose is that thatʼs what I remember, over ten years later.
It is one of the things I love most about Shakespeare – how much his work has gone on to inspire other works of art. Not just in music but paintings, poetry, sculpture – the list is endless really. Itʼs also not necessarily in really distinct, obvious ways. It doesnʼt have to be really olden-day portraits and stuffy classical music. It has filtered down to pop songs, rappers, disney movies (The Lion King is a loose version of Hamlet! Gah!) – itʼs in the words and phrases we use in everyday speech – all can be traced back to Will. His work is not just 37 plays, 2 poems and a book of sonnets. Its the way these stories and characters have woven themselves into our culture, inspiring and creating even as we recently celebrated his 450th birthday. That, I think, is his most important legacy.
I thought Iʼd attach a link to the London Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovskyʼs Romeo & Juliet Overture. Have a listen – hopefully youʼll get an idea of what Iʼve been banging on about. Either way, Iʼm always keen to hear your thoughts 🙂