Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Jean-Christophe Maillot
Costume Design: Jérôme Kaplan
Lighting Design: Dominique Drillot
Set Design: Ernest Pignon-Ernest
75 years after Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo &Juliet graced the world stage to critical acclaim, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s re-imagining of the timeless classic is pirouetting across the boards of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. Originally produced for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, the collaborative production’s UK premiere marks the beginning of Northern Ballet’s 45th, or sapphire, anniversary. A well-known ballet by one of the world’s greatest composers, this production of Romeo &Juliet retains the essence of Shakespeare’s epic romance while infusing the ballet with a refreshing contemporary edge.
For gone are the rapiers and flashing blades of the Montagues and Capulets. Gone too are the rigid sets, with the rows of wings. Rather, set designer Ernest Pignon-Ernest has excelled himself in reconceptualising Romeo &Juliet. Ingenious features, such as the lovers’ bed that later transforms into a tomb-like, stone slab, exist within a larger framework of a magnificent monochrome landscape composed of dynamic, white, curved panels, set against the black theatre drapes. Shifting with each scene change to alter and create anew the space in which the dancers perform, these clean-edged panels cleverly reflect the lighting and subsequently the mood of the dancers. For example, the reddish colours used in the Dance of the Knights convey the danger and passion of the scene. Moreover, lighting is particularly well employed in the balcony scene to brilliantly convey the idea of evening; Juliet stands on the balcony bathed in the glowing light of her room, while Romeo dances below her in the blue dusky light of the garden at night.
The costumes, designed by Jérôme Kaplan, are also highly considered, providing the dancers with flowing lines and wonderfully free movement. The colour palettes are also highly effective, with the Montagues dressed in whites and creams, and the Capulets dressed in black. This simultaneously ties in to the set design as well as the black and white priest’s costume of Friar Lawrence (Isaac Lee-Baker) who effectively frames the production as the orchestrator of the infamous tragic ending.
The Northern Ballet Sinfonia once again proves to be a solid rock upon which the Company can rely, directed by their highly proficient music director, John Pryce-Jones. The orchestra confidently performs Prokofiev’s famous score with real energy and control, and the flawless synchronicity between the dancers and the musicians is to be admired.
Indeed, the Company at Northern Ballet is one to be envied throughout the industry, and is recognised as such since they won Best Company at the Taglioni European Ballet Awards last year. As they perform the complex, slow-motion fight scene between the Montagues and Capulets at the closure of Act II, it is clear that they are a Company that combines truly innovative and imaginative choreography with incredible athletic strength, grace and skill, not to mention the fact that each and every member is a wonderful actor as well as dancer. In particular, praise ought to go to soloist, Giuliano Contadini, who performs the part of Romeo with great strength and passion, and premier dancer, Martha Leebolt, as Juliet. The on-stage chemistry between the dancers is ecstatic and their duets are beautiful to watch.
Moreover, in spite of the tragic subject, the Northern Ballet ensemble sympathetically infuses the production with a pronounced comedic element, particularly through the mischievous characters of Benvolio (Sean Bates) and Mercutio (Matthew Koon). Indeed, the comedy contrasts nicely with the powerful menace of Javier Torres’s Tybalt. However, Koon especially deserves praise for his sheer energy, stamina and incredible acting skill as the confrontational Mercutio, virtually stealing the show.
In this landmark year for Northern Ballet, this latest production of Romeo &Juliet cements their reputation as one of the most exciting Companies working in the UK today.
Touring until 12th March 2015