★★★★ | Northern Ballet’s Romeo And Juliet
Set in 14th century Verona, the rivalries between two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are intensified when Romeo and Juliet fall for each other. But coming from rival families means that their love faces insurmountable odds, and when the conflict escalates after a street fight ends in bloodshed, with Romeo killing Juliet’s brother, a chain of tragic events is set in motion, as the lovers try to escape the confines of their family loyalties.
Departing from their signature style, Northern Ballet presents a piece which is stripped back to the absolute minimum. Set against a purely white backdrop of linear shaped screens, splashed only with the occasional coloured lighting wash, the minimalist presentation and lack of any real set, props or backdrops only served to focus the audience’s attention to the frenetic, visceral and energetic choreography and performances. With no smoke and mirrors to hide behind, choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot lays his work bare on the stage, and this move pays off, providing an incredibly fresh and thoroughly contemporary piece of dance. The choreography encompasses the romantic, the dramatic and the passionate; and the whole thing is dotted with the occasional pieces of humour, which helps to provide respite from the dramatic mood slightly. The costumes, with a hint of John Paul Gautier running through them, stand out from the white background to easily define the family loyalty of each character, and the use of a contrasting colour palette (predominantly cream and black) mirrors the themes which underpin the story; love and rivalry; comedy and tragedy; life and death.
Most notable amongst the slew of energetic performances was Javier Torres as Tybalt, who portrayed his character with a bullish arrogance. There was also a noteworthy and incredibly supple performance from Mlindi Kulashe as the priest tortured by his own guilt. The cast’s performances were tightly in unison and technically impressive, in particular, the Dance of the Knights, which was an exciting set piece performed with precision moves and breakneck speed.
Romeo and Juliet is wholly reliant on its performances and choreography, which does not disappoint. Overall, the show has more of a feeling of modern dance than traditional ballet, but this does not detract from the skill of the performers or from the sheer spectacle of the edgy, angular and visually striking set pieces which are juxtaposed against the traditional score by Prokofiev in a clash of modern and traditional.
Romeo & Juliet is currently playing at Sheffield Lyceum (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) until Saturday 17th September, before continuing its national tour. Northern Ballet will be continuing to tour throughout the UK this year with a variety of productions, including Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights and Beauty and the Beast. Visit the company’s website at www.northernballet.com for full details.
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.