BalletReviewShakespeare 400South West

Romeo and Juliet – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Choreographer:Kenneth MacMillan
Composer:Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:Paul Murphy
Reviewer: Karen Bussell


To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, BRB has compiled a touring programme of adaptations of the Bard’s works delighting Plymouth first with Prokofiev’s Romeo and Julietand then returning in the autumn with both a themed triple bill and David Bintley’s brand new The Tempest.

Kenneth MacMillan wrings every ounce of passion and nuance from his choreography. There are fun asides, high impact partying, stately processions, courtly shenanigans, and pathos by the bucketful. Fab.

Jenna Roberts is an exquisite Juliet – a mere wisp of a thing emerging, butterfly-like, from sweet innocent casting aside her dolls as burgeoning womanhood is woken by a high-spirited adolescent beau. Tremendous pointwork and perfect awkward angles – terrific.

Perennial favourite Iain Mackay is precise as a believable and dynamic Romeo ready for high jinks – and even higher leaps – with his trusty mates but intense as the star-crossed lover executing the notoriously intricate virtuoso role with ease. The pas de deux with Roberts are poignant or celebratory and the final piece with his lifeless love is tear-jerkingly beautiful.

I’m fast running out of superlatives to use and plenty more are due: it’s good to see BRB’s elder statespersons Michael O’Hare, Wolfgang Stollwitzer and Marion Tate strutting their stuff as Lord Capulet, Escalus, and Nurse respectively; Valentin Olovyannikov is a brooding, belligerent Tybalt while the corps de ballet is excellent as ever.

In a ballet with plenty of solid showcasing male roles, Mathias Dingman is a great cheeky chappie Mercutio (although he does take an inordinate amount of time to die) while elegant YasuoAtsuji is captivating, seemingly hovering in his grand jetes.

Paul Murphy controls the soaring score in the pit while Paul Andrews has created a baroque set straight from Renaissance Italy – pillars, alcoves, and sweeping stairway – or stark vault. Costuming is sumptuous with ochre, faded blues, gold and red predominant (although Paris’s flesh-coloured tights are still somewhat disturbing).

Superb lighting designed by John B Read provides an evocative and atmospheric backdrop to crowd scenes, mummers, masked ball, moonlight trysts, and gloomy crypt.

Mummers and harlots, lords and ladies, young bloods, feuding, love, life, death and sensational sword swashbuckling – it’s all there. Not to be missed.

Runs until 16 April 2016 | Image: BRB

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