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BWW Review: ROMEO & JULIET, English National Ballet At Home

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BWW Review: ROMEO & JULIET, English National Ballet At Home

BWW Review: ROMEO & JULIET, English National Ballet At HomeRudolf Nureyev created his version of Romeo and Juliet back in 1977 for what was then called the London Festival Ballet. He commissioned a Russian translation of Shakespeare's play, wanting to use the language to inspire the movement. The result is a cinematic, dark and accurate representation of the turmoil and passion of the characters and their tragic story.

This is not a romantic version of Verona-as the ballet opens; a cart passes carrying the victims of the plague and beggars lurk. These macabre elements are swept aside by joyous street scenes as the company gathers to represent the daily life of Verona.

Where words are lacking, Nureyev uses visual representation thoughfully. As the couple touch hands on the balcony scene, the mind instantly turns to the line "palm to palm" and when Juliet declares death will take her maidenhead, a skeletal figure of death appears to her before the consummation of her marriage to Romeo. There are also some well-considered touches, such as the reappearance of ghostly Mercutio and Tybalt as Juliet veers between fear and hope.

Nureyev places Juliet very much at the centre of the action; everything seems to revolve around her to the extent that it feels that Romeo is often left more on the sidelines. Alina Cojocaru creates real depth to the character of Juliet; showcasing the vivacious young girl through her incredibly light jumps. There is thoughtful precision to her performance where she shows the passionate love for Romeo and her deep despair at Tybalt's death and Romeo's banishment.

Isaac Hernández's Romeo is beautifully innocent and obviously captivated by Juliet's charms. Hernández uses the lightest of jumps and movements to show Romeo's boyish demeanour, switching to more forceful movement in his bereavement.

Despite very good technical detail, the chemistry between the couple is somewhat lacking. It is never totally convincing that they are deeply in love enough to die for it. Indeed, the very end scene where the families unite in grief also feels lacking in emotion.

Supporting members of the company also show great skill. Junior soloist Cesar Corrales gives an adept and very funny performance as Mercutio; his dance at the Capulet's ball is bursting with wit and charm. His jocular persona is so persuasive that when he is later killed, it is very convincing that his friends are sure that he is joking. James Forbat is elegant as Benvolio, with a touching performance.

English National Ballet stalwart James Streeter is suitably arrogant and menacing as the tyrannical Tybalt. As he leads the company at the ball in 'Dance of the Knights' with brash and strong movement, he is urgent, swaggering and compelling to watch.

Prokofiev's stimulating score is expertly played by the English National Ballet Philharmonic, conducted by Gavin Sutherland. This combined with Nureyev's evocative choreography, gives the tragedy of the story great nuance.

Ezio Frigerio's set and costume design immerses the audience directly in Renaissance Italy, with lush, brocaded costumes reminiscent of the artwork from the time. The opulent colour-coding of magenta and green for the Capulets and Montagues is particularly striking. Or they would be if you could see them properly.

Unfortunately, all of these positive elements are let down by the actual shooting of the production; cameras do not appear to be colour balanced, with one camera in particular, to the left of the stage showing orange hues where reds should be. The white balance is also wrong, with lots of over-exposure apparent. It is also hugely distracting that one camera keeps showing Gavin Sutherland's head bobbing around at the bottom corner of the screen. It is a real shame, as these elements distract hugely from the enjoyment of the performers.

Despite lacking in sufficient emotion at points, this is a well-executed version of Nureyev's ballet. Unfortunately the technical screening is less than successful.

Romeo & Juliet is available on English National Ballet's YouTube channel until 8pm BST 8 May

Photo Credit: Bill Cooper



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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan