Theatre in Wales

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A haunting evening

Romeo and Juliet

Birmingham Royal Ballet , Wales Millennium Centre , July-07-10
Romeo and Juliet by Birmingham Royal Ballet The Sadler's Wells Ballet Company was founded in 1931 by Ninette de Valois. The first principal dancers were Dame Alicia Markova and Sir Anton Dolin, the founding choreographer was Sir Frederick Ashton. In 1964 he commissioned Kenneth MacMillan to choreograph Romeo and Juliet; his leading dancers in this first well thought-out production were Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn whose outstanding performances immediately won international acclaim. Sadler’s Wells relocated to Birmingham in 1990 where it has become the world renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet. With each revival of this production MacMillan’s original choreography has been retained.

The dancing, the music and the monumental décor all provided many moments of great delight and poignancy. Conductor, Paul Murphy gave us a commanding and subtle interpretation of Prokofiev’s ever-changing music. The leading dancers, Ambra Vallo as Juliet and César Morales as Romeo were enchanting and very much in love though the passion and eroticism strongly drawn in the music didn’t quite percolate through to their performance. Vallo’s intricate point work was exquisite. But it was Mathias Dingman as Mercutio who brought a real dynamic to the evening that was lacking in the overall presentation. As Benvolio, Romeo’s other close friend, Tyrone Singleton danced with spirit but always remained in Dingman’s shadow.

MacMillan was a very innovative choreographer in his day but watching this voluptuous and very precise staging, it seems to me time for updating, we don’t need West Side Story but there often seemed a need for much more vigour and vitality in the story telling. There even appeared to be a thinness in the music at the opening but soon Prokofiev’s discordant and thrilling rhythms ignite the very intricate and excitingly performed sword-play that sets the atmosphere for all that follows. The intensity and focus of the performance does gain in strength as the tragic narrative unwinds.

Raggedly costumed mandolin dancers provide a cheerful divertissement. Marion Tait brings a good sense of warmth and humour to the role of the nurse. Jonathan Payn strikes the right note with his Friar Laurence. Last minute replacement Tom Rogers danced with strength and brought a good touch of sensitivity to the luckless Paris.

Whatever shortcomings this production may have had they were wiped into oblivion by the closing moments. This ‘death’ pas de deux soared into the realms of fine art. It required the ultimate cooperation of both dancers as Morales takes up Juliet’s seemingly dead body and sublimely expresses his grief. A piercing tableau of the two very young, delicate star-crossed lovers brings this haunting evening to a triumphant close.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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