Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Sadler's Wells

Northern Ballet return to London with their acclaimed, and newly restored production

By: May. 30, 2024
Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Sadler's Wells
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Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Sadler's Wells Leeds based Northern Ballet always pack a punch when they visit London every May, and this time was no different, with Massimo Moricone’s slick and captivating Romeo and Juliet. This year’s touring production held extra poignancy, with the costumes and set requiring full restoration and repair from a devastating warehouse flood in 2015. Nine years later, Lez Brotherston’s designs have been recaptured to their former glory and with the company in fine form, it’s clear to see why this is one of their most beloved and successful ventures.

The Shakespeare classic can be heavy (and lengthy) going, but in this take devised by Christopher Gable, the story sweeps along fluently, the familiar Prokofiev score has been trimmed down and is all the better for it. The opening image of the lovers on individual plinths as lights crackle and they are pulled apart neatly reflects what's at stake, and the blissful balcony pas de deux rolls around before you can draw breath. 

Brotherston’s simple, eye-catching designs are expertly drawn with the cold Capulet’s in black velvet adorned with gold studs, the Montague’s a more carefree bunch in looser fitting colourful attire.

Dominique Larose and Joseph Taylor make a handsome lead couple, their individual styles creating something together the audience cannot resist. The journey of Larose’s Juliet from skittish immaturity to womanhood is beautifully pitched. Larose is a very placed dancer who can also handle the emotional nuances and demands of Juliet. There is an assured calm in her early solo, the audience know they are in good hands here and it later allows us to be fully engrossed in her story. She gets braver in the more spontaneous pas de deux choreography but never loses her youthful edge. 

Taylor is a textbook Romeo, explosive dancing, tender partnering and endless stamina, it’s easy to see why Larose’s Juliet is immediately smitten at the Capulet’s Ball. The scene which features the iconic Dance of the Knights music is depicted here more as one side marking their territory than anything riotous, but it adds a menacing edge which is sustained throughout the performance. 

They pair could share more chemistry in the famous balcony scene, Larose could make more eye contact with Taylor to really bring home their connection but it’s beautifully danced, the endless lifts and intricate partnering passed off with ease and fluency. Taylor’s Romeo is more sensitive and charismatic than most, he is powerful yet gentle, an expressive dancer who makes us feel his turmoil later on.

There is depth in the ranks too, with Aaron Kok delivering a scene stealing Mercutio with fearless jumps and boundless energy, while Heather Lehan’s Nurse is so much more than the typical shuffling character normally seen, hitting the mark in every comic moment, most notably when delivering Juliet’s letter to Romeo. 

There’s so much else to be highlight; the icy drama of Harriet Marden’s Lady Capulet, the bouncy machismo of the Montague trio (Taylor, Kok and Filippo DiVilio as Benvolio) before they enter the ball, the excellent staging for the main characters first meeting that takes them out of the ensuing tussle and into their own little bubble, to name a few. 

None of this would zip along with the momentum it does without the faultless Northern Ballet Sinfonia, led by conductor Daniel Parkinson. Northern Ballet reported last year of unprecedented financial pressures which now mean some performances will have only recorded music to accompany them. On this viewing, with the orchestra’s sparkling take on Prokofiev’s score it’s hard to imagine such vivid drama without it. Live ballet is also about live music with talent and quality like this at risk, it’s imperative it should be saved. 

Image credit: Emily Nuttall

Romeo and Juliet is at Sadler's Wells until June 1.


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