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Challenging the Stability of the Mimetic in Matthew Bourne’s Romeo+Juliet

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2021, 34(1), pp.81-107
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Received : March 10, 2021
  • Accepted : April 14, 2021
  • Published : April 30, 2021

Jihay Park 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo+Juliet (2019) is a Millennial restaging of William Shakespeare’s tale of the star-crossed lovers in movement. Set to Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet score, the dance musical reinvents a long-standing familial feud into a social rift between repulsively abusive adults and unjustly persecuted adolescents. It is a drama of young people living in the near future who desperately desire freedom and affection, while addressing issues facing youth today such as mental health and sexual violence. A notable aspect of the production is the young casts. Bourne’s decision to engage young talent was supported by his belief that a story about youth is “no better told than by the young,” and the team recruited from across 13 cities 80 local boys and girls who, being part of the UK’s young population, are familiar with the issues that the show is concerned with. Bourne intended to overwhelm his patrons with teenage bursts of energy released from the body, leading them to wonder about incarcerated youth in the danced narrative and, eventually, the well-being of the juvenile dancers they are witnessing onstage. Bourne’s celebration of youthful vigor thus provides new images of the body on stage that goes beyond mere representation. The infectious youthful energy articulated by dancing youngsters highlight an aesthetic experience similar to that of the postdramatic body which, according to Marvin Carlson (2015), troubles the stability of the mimetic. Specifically, its body-based disavowal of illustrations is most clearly visible in the ensemble dances where the body becomes its own message. Movement in Romeo+Juliet encourages further investigation into the brutal condition of younger generations, and this echo of reflection is, as Hans-Thies Lehmann (1999) underscores, “an implied telos even in the theatre of pure presence that refuses meaning.” Thus, Romeo+Juliet, as a variant of book musical, introduces a function of dance that is different from the six functions of dance in musical theatre that Liza Gennaro and Stacy Wolf identifies (2015). Bourne’s ensemble dance challenges the distinction between theatre world and everyday life, and empowers the audience to become the author of their theatrical experience.

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