Star cross'd lovers dance on

Romeo and Juliet: Chi Cao as Romeo. Picture: Bill Cooper

Romeo and Juliet

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

IT may seem strange to say, but a sword fight is one of the most memorable scenes in this ballet telling the tragic story of star crossed lovers.

But the clash of steel in Verona's market place between sworn enemies - the Montagues and the Capulets - is superbly choreographed and so realistic you genuinely feel concern for the safety of the combatants.

A dozen or more rivals stand toe-to-toe with blades flashing until the Prince steps in and demands an end to the feud, but when Romeo and his friends trick their way into the lavish masked ball at the Capulets' home, love blossoms and the families are again at war.

Chi Cao (Romeo) and Nao Sakuma (Juliet Capulet) are a delight throughout, and their dancing when Juliet descends from her balcony to meet her new love is superb.

Stunning performances, too, from Robert Parker (Tybalt), Alexander Campbell (Mercutio) and Steven Monteith (Benvolio), and the entire company dance beautifully in the ballroom scene.

Inevitably, perhaps, this ballet appears to have more acting than dancing at times...almost a feeling of watching a silent movie in the final heart-rending moments when Romeo finds his lover apparently dead in the family tomb, and takes his own life.

Many of the costumes and sets are magnificent, with the possible exception of Juliet's bedroom which seems somewhat sparse.

Romeo and Juliet, choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan to Prokofiev's music, played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Paul Murphy, runs to Saturday night 02.10.10

Paul Marston 

 

Another pointe of view

****

SHAKESPEARE'S Romeo and Juliet is probably the greatest love story ever told. A tale full of passion and of warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets, in mediaeval Verona - the two households, both alike in dignity.

Their feud is the constant theme in both the play and the ballet and the choreography of the fight scenes is masterful with flashing blades filling the stage with a real touch of the Errol Flynns.

Mind you the blades could do with a bit of honing to improve their efficiency. It took both Mercutio (Mathias Dingman) and Tybalt (Robert Gravenor) absolute ages to shuffle off their mortal coils after being run through. In Mercutio's case in particular there are Wagner operas that don't last as long as his death throes.

With wholesale cast changes star of the evening was Jenna Roberts who has both the waif like vulnerability and innocence of Juliet, who remember was 14, as well as looking and dancing like a dream. No wonder Romeo fell for her.

Tender moment: Iain Mackay as Romeo and Jenna Roberts as Juliet. The same pairing will open  the London season at Sadler's Wells (Oct 12-14) in both Romeo and Juliet and Pointes of View (Oct 15-16)

Romeo is always a problem whatever the production be it a ballet or a play.  Male ballet dancers, or actors, with the stature and experience to play the role will invariable struggle to appear as a teenager – our star cross'd lover was supposedly 15 - tormented by their first romance. 

Zeffirelli managed it in his 1968 film with a 15-year-old Olivia Hussey as young Miss Capulet and the 17-year-old, 5ft 8in and young looking Leonard Whiting as Mrs Montague's youngest lad but in most productions you have to pretend Romeo is still of school age.

Iain Mackay's Romeo, for example, is a powerful, athletic, strapping lad but it is not all soaring leaps and muscle; he manages to convey a sense of fun and mischief, as with the scene when the nurse, the always excellent Marion Tait, tries to deliver a message from Juliet and he shows a sensitive, lightness of touch in his pas de deux with Juliet and you can feel the anguish at the end when he believes Juliet, who is drugged, is really dead so, his heart broken, he kills himself (dying mercifully quickly) only for Juliet to then awaken, discover her new husband has left her a new widow and so she completes the tragedy by taking her own life.

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo

The sets and costumes are sumptuous the music compelling and the dancing, as we have come to expect from the BRB, is superb. All that was missing was that indefinable spark that lifts the excellent to the memorable. You can't rehearse it, bottle it, cast it or add it. It is either there or it isn't, all in the lap of the Gods of theatre - last night was merely excellent.

Roger Clarke 

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