Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A partnership of great chemistry

Romeo and Juliet

Northern Ballet Theatre , New Theatre Cardiff , April-27-07
Romeo and Juliet by Northern Ballet Theatre This ballet creation of the worldís greatest love story by the late Christopher Gable back in 1991 retains the freshness and youthful vigour that makes it a sure-fired crowd pleaser.

With wonderful costumes, a flexible and effective set, Prokofievís glorious music conducted by John Pryce-Jones and, above all a passionate and committed ensemble of dancers, this is an all too rare treat.

For their visit to Wales our star cross'd lovers, Christopher Hinton-Lewis and Keiko Amemori, have both individual charm and presence and combine to form a partnership of great chemistry.

We have seen Hinton-Lewis in a number of roles with the company but none had allowed him top display his fluidity, athleticism and grace as a dancer with a dramatic talent for interpretation.

Whether it is playfully cavorting with his friends Mercutio and Benvolio or gracefully dancing with his Juliet Hinton-Lewis is a convincing young, energetic and, at first, immature lad.

Similarly Amemoriís Juliet is a young girl, playful and silly who moves through the ballet to discover not only love but her own sexuality, frustration and heartache, all in the space of the show.

While Romeo is at times portrayed as a love-struck dreamer, this is a Juliet who is no passive bystander but knows her own heart Ė and mind Ė and is ready to stand up to her tyrannical parents and ultimately die for her man.

Our lovers are given beautiful choreography by Massimo Moricone, a combination of moves that would be recognised by any ballet lover and more adventurous movements that suit this young and athletic body of dance-actors.

So we have graceful and elegant duets and ensemble pieces but w e also have intimate scenes with out teenage lovers being just that, lovers, exploring their physical and emotional desires, bodies cavorting, intertwining, wrapped in the passion of Prokofievís scorching score.

Similarly, when death strikes, whether that be the death of Mercutio, played with the right juvenile cheeky bravado by Hironao Takahashi, by Bendik Mildestveitís steely and menacing Tybalt (Julietís cousin) or indeed Tybaltís killing by Romeo, the outburst of grief is intense. We have wide-opened mouth wailing.

That oh so famous crypt scene, when Romeo believes Juliet is dead is played with marvellous compassion and conviction. Romeo cannot accept she has gone and dances with her lifeless body, repeating those moments of emotional and sexual bliss, before taking his own life and curling his body around hers.
Another highlight is the Dance of the Giants, where the Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio, danced by Tobias Batley, gatecrash the Capuletís masked ball. This is the magical combination of Prokofievís most stirring, threatening music for the proud, aggressive dance while also when Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time.

While the principles indeed deserved the praise of the enthusiastic New Theatre audience this is very much an ensemble company so we see the same dedication and attention to dramatic detail, whether that be the smaller principle roles or corps de ballet.

We have Ginnie Rayís ice cold Lady Capulet , David Paul Kierceís Lord Capulet who is more concerned with apologizing to the suitor Paris, danced by a proud and slightly distant Michael Berkin, that his daughterís distress.

Hannah Bateman dances the nurse with a subtle combination of humour and gentleness to act as a foil to the cold-heartedness of Julietís parents.
The eye is also taken by the gestures and interactions of the Capulet and Montague friends that make the crowd scenes, for example, a realistic and convincing context for the bitter family feuding.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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