Choreographer: Peter Schaufuss
Music: Sir Frederick Ashton
Reviewer: Rosella Barnes
Romeo and Juliet arrives into Northampton’s Royal &Derngate with such poise and elegance proving that arguably one of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays can be transformed into a majestic and stunning ballet. Peter Schaufuss’ interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most treasured love stories and a tale known worldwide, captures the pure essence of two individuals fighting for love against all odds. The pair of “star-crossed lovers” are destined to be together despite the family feud which separates them. Abandoning all except love, Romeo Montague (Luke Schaufuss) and Juliet Capulet (Ryoko Yagyu), pursue their feelings through the strife of division.
Schaufuss’ choreography is truly stunning, creating an engaging and emotional vision of the story. Schaufuss delivers his performance with ease, creating a very believable love-struck young man in the face of family history. Schaufuss controls the stage together with his two accomplices, Benvolio (Ricardo Pereira) and a rather comic Mercutio (Stefan Wise). Schaufuss’ choreography works well to illustrate the nature of each individual character, namely Mercutio who becomes rightly likeable and laughable.
However there are some irritations with Sir Frederick Ashton’s rather Shakespearian portrayal of the tale. Ashton’s version has been revived for the first time since 1955, and it does seem somewhat dated, his focus more on the star-crossed lovers than the excited Verona backdrop. And elements of Schaufuss’ choreography are rather melodramatic and unbelievable. Yagyu’s performance as Juliet has its flaws, however not to be totally disregarded as Luke Schaufuss rises marvellously to the technical challenges of Act 1, and sweeps the audience off their feet. Combined with the quick yet refined score, the purity and tenderness of the pair’s love is captured passionately.
Melodramatic moments arise mainly in the form of the older characters who do little other than stand and gesticulate. Lord (Josef Vesely) and Lady (Katherine Watson) Capulet appear on stage heightened by the imposing music, which includes Dance of the Knights by Sergei Prokofiev.
Schaufuss works well to adjoin the music with the choreography and lighting, and with next to no set other than a make-shift bed the music keeps the audience on their toes. Memorable features of this mood lighting includes the heated moment of Romeo’s conquer over Tybalt. A deep red glow over the stage gives Tybalt’s death an even more poignant and bloody ending as he topples down the stairs. Juliet’s veranda doesn’t do much for a backdrop and simply is a set of steps, leaving the audience to draw in the fineries and focus on the purity of the pair’s love and harmonious unity as a pale blue light envelopes the stage as Romeo sneaks up to Juliet’s room.
This ballet isn’t to be treated as totally highbrow. Easy to follow and impressive enough to watch, Schaufuss creates a majestic tribute to a love story never forgotten. At good value, it’s well worth a visit.
Runs until 11th September