MacMillan and Prokofiev
Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s creative environment was thoroughly opposite to Sergei Profokiev’s: Unlike 1930s Russia, a thoroughly constrained creative environment of censoring, suspicion towards artistic experimentation, and Great Purges, the creative environment in 1960s England was defined by irrepressible musical and creative experimentation combined with a novel indifference for authority.
This new interest in challenging authority in England resulted from a combination of war, music, politics. World War II was finally far away enough to allow young people to focus on having fun and developing their individuality. Events in British politics, such as the 1963 Profumo affair, had eroded a nation’s trust in authority and in their leaders, leading to a loss of respect for the classical and authoritative. This contempt for the classical was reflected in the cultural and especially musical experimentation of the time; ballet was no exception.
Importantly, the English generation that came of age during the 1960s was the first to be free of conscription. The concept of being enlisted is very present in Romeo & Juliet. Simply being born a Capulet or a Montague was paramount to being drafted in an endless, senseless war, very similar to how the Vietnam War was regarded.
Romeo and Juliet, as teenagers who devote themselves to love in face of the never-ending violence between their families, would have been attractive to this generation and culture. Friar Lawrence consents to marry the young lovers only because he hopes their marriage would end the feud between their two families, a philosophy strongly reminiscent of hippies’ Make Love Not War campaigns. The theme of young people standing up against violence, of refusing to blindly follow authority, and of defending their individuality, as many young people in Britain were doing, made Romeo & Juliet an attractive ballet for the time.