Warring triad families. Passion and tragedy. The famous balcony scene. Shakespeare’s timeless tale of star-crossed lovers has captivated audiences for generations and is given a fresh and thought-provoking retelling in Septime Webre’s new Romeo + Juliet. Set in 1960s Hong Kong with designs incorporating mid-twentieth century Hong Kong street life details, this epic love story captivates with vivid dancing, complex drama, sumptuous cheongsams and iconic scenes from the tragic tale. With Webre’s original choreography accompanied by Prokofiev’s dramatic score, this brilliantly imagined adaptation is especially relevant for contemporary audiences as it fuses dance and drama against a backdrop of complicated politics and social upheaval.
Choreography: Septime Webre
Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Costume Design: Mandy Tam
Set Design: Ricky Chan
Lighting Design: Billy Chan
Dramaturge: Yan Pat To
Make-up Design: M·A·C Cosmetics
Martial Arts Partner: Hing Chao, International Guoshu Association
Live Accompaniment: Hong Kong Sinfonietta
Conductor: Yip Wing-sie
Septime Webre is an internationally recognised ballet director, choreographer, educator and advocate. He assumed artistic directorship of Hong Kong Ballet from July 2017, prior to that, he led The Washington Ballet for 17 years and the American Repertory Ballet from 1993-1999. In addition, Webre is the Artistic Director of Halcyon, an annual international Festival for Creativity in Washington DC. As a choreographer, Webre has worked with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Colorado Ballet, Ballet West, and many others, and he has worked frequently in theatre and opera. As a dancer, Webre danced solo and principal roles from the classical repertoire as well as in contemporary works by Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham. He has served on the juries of international ballet competitions in Varna, New York, Seoul, and elsewhere. He has served on the board of Dance/USA. He holds a degree in History/Pre-Law from the University of Texas, and is the 7th son in a Cuban-American family.
©Worldwide Dancer Project
It is daybreak in Hong Kong during the early 1960s. The city has been tense in recent months as a bitter rivalry between two of Hong Kong’s elite families has escalated.
Romeo, the scion of one of Hong Kong’s prominent families, wanders the streets of Hong Kong dreamily, nursing a broken heart—Rosaline has rejected him. He seeks the advice of his Sifu, or Master, who consoles him.
As the street comes alive, Romeo is joined by his friends, Little Mak and Benny, and three fei nui (bad girls), and the market street is soon filled with life. With the arrival of Tai Po, a triad boss with ties to Romeo’s father’s rival, the animosity between the two powerful Hong Kong clans spills into public view. A fight breaks out. Romeo’s Sifu intervenes, and the crowd eventually disperses, revealing the bodies of two dead young men.
In her bedroom, Juliet, the only daughter of one of Hong Kong’s prominent tycoons, teases her Amah, or Nurse, affectionately. Juliet’s parents enter to proudly announce that they have arranged an auspicious match for her—she is to marry Mr Parker, a wealthy gweilo. Juliet is tentative about the prospect of marriage but receives Mr Parker graciously.
At a lavish gala dinner, Juliet is put on display for the assembled guests by her father. Disguised with masks, Romeo, Little Mak and Benny slip into the party undetected. Through the crowd, Romeo and Juliet spot each other and are both lovestruck. Tai Po (who is both Juliet’s father’s associate and Juliet’s mother’s lover) suspects the interloper and unmasks him. Enraged, Tai Po demands revenge, but Juliet’s father stops him. As the guests depart, Tai Po warns Juliet to stay away from Romeo.
Later that night, Romeo wanders to Juliet’s home and waits outside her balcony. Juliet appears, and the two declare their love for each other.
Romeo’s friends enjoy the afternoon on the streets of Hong Kong, gently mocking Romeo, who is delirious with love. A bride being photographed passes by. The friends are watching a film being made on the streets when Juliet’s Amah arrives with a letter for Romeo from Juliet agreeing to marry him. Romeo is overjoyed at the news.
Unable to have a traditional wedding with their families present, Romeo and Juliet secretly meet at a temple and commit themselves to each other. Romeo’s Sifu blesses their union, while the Amah looks on, weeping tears of joy and foreboding.
As the afternoon wanes, Little Mak and Benny wander into a mahjong parlour looking for fun. When Tai Po unexpectedly walks in, Little Mak taunts him. Romeo then enters, but since he is now secretly married to a member of Tai Po’s clan, he seeks peace. Little Mak and Tai Po continue to trade escalating insults, and a fight ensues. Romeo tries to come between them, inadvertently allowing Tai Po to kill Little Mak. In a cloud of rage over his friend’s death, Romeo kills Tai Po. Juliet’s parents come upon the scene, and Juliet’s mother is undone by the death of her lover, Tai Po.
Romeo and Juliet spend the night together in Juliet’s bedroom. Romeo, now a fugitive for killing Tai Po, must flee as day breaks. Juliet’s parents enter—they have decided that she will marry Mr Parker the following day. Juliet protests, but her father brutally silences her. In despair, Juliet rushes off to seek help from Romeo’s Sifu.
The Sifu gives Juliet a potion that will make her appear to be dead. He promises that he will send a message to Romeo that Juliet is only sleeping and that after the funeral, but before the burial, she will awaken. Then she and Romeo will be reunited, and they can escape Hong Kong together.
Juliet returns home where she pretends to agree to marry Mr Parker. Left alone, she then swallows the potion and falls into a death-like slumber. On the morning of her wedding to Mr Parker, Juliet is found dead.
Not having received the Sifu’s message, Romeo believes Juliet to be actually dead and desperately rushes to her funeral. He kills Mr Parker so that he can be alone with Juliet’s body. In his despair, he kills himself with a knife. Juliet then awakens, is horrified to discover Romeo dead and kills herself with his knife.
For $1,000 VIP Ticket-holders*
Present your ticket stub to Hong Kong Ballet’s reception counter (Level 2 Foyer, Hong Kong Cultural Centre) before the end of intermission to receive a coupon for a free drink. Each ticket stub is valid for one free drink only.
*If cash bars at performance venue are closed due to COVID-19 or any other unexpected circumstances, complimentary drinks for VIP ticket holders will be unavailable.