Home » London Theatre Reviews » Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet at Sadler’s Wells | Review

Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet at Sadler’s Wells | Review

Northern Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet choreographed by Massimo Moricone is a delightful, fast-paced show of gorgeous dance and the always special Northern Ballet Sinfonia playing Sergei Prokofiev’s masterful score from the Sadler’s Wells orchestra pit.

Dominique Larose and Joseph Taylor in Romeo and Juliet. Photo credit: Emily Nuttall
Dominique Larose and Joseph Taylor in Romeo and Juliet. Photo credit: Emily Nuttall

Directed and devised by Christopher Gable this sensitive interpretation of the old story has been a hit since it was first performed in 1992. Crucially it cuts some of the irritating out of modern time aspects of Shakespeare’s play.

The two families at the heart of the mortal conflicts that unfold are strikingly represented by the lightness and ease and fun of one and the authoritarian, regimented, repressed nature of the other with these differences explored fully in the choreography. ‘The Dance of the Knights’ in particular is a wonderfully powerful ensemble piece.

Motifs of authoritarianism and freedom are carried over into a mammoth Renaissance set and in the splendid costumes which for the Montague set are either white and flimsy or richly stiff in black and red for the Capulets. Though magnificent the latter suggests a stifling of natural emotions as Juliet is made to wear them, introducing by this means a better understanding of her emotionless, distant mother, Lady Capulet, performed with icy dignity by Harriet Marden. After all, she was once another who would have been subject to an arranged marriage, experiencing the same lack of power over her body and mind her daughter is refusing. In Shakespeare’s time arranged marriages, particularly in wealthy families were usual.

This is a production that describes the effects of an authoritarian patriarchy on its youth, including those who expect to act on their own desires and attachments.

There’s a clever foretelling in the opening ensemble, representing the prologue in Shakespeare’s play, of this story being about society and the death of innocents.

How both sides of this male-dominated culture may at any moment turn and treat women badly are present even in the comedy. What starts as fifteenth-century bawdy fun between Romeo’s friends and Juliet’s elderly nurse turns into contemporary inappropriate assault. The audience is invited to laugh. Many do. However, what follows demonstrates such attitudes can usher terrible consequences.

Romeo is sensitively danced by Joseph Taylor, a tall dancer of power and strength who shows how these characteristics can be suborned to the power of gentleness through care for others. His murder of Tybalt, danced with impressive malign believability by Harry Skoupas, is portrayed as a moment of youthful fury at a time when Romeo intended to think about something else altogether, not have his life changed by the bubbling conflicts in which they live. A ready trap for a young man.

Of special note is the dancing of Mercutio by Aaron Kok. His dancing slices through the cover of any ensemble, drawing every eye with his precision, athleticism and charisma.

Juliet is beautifully portrayed by Dominique Larose. Her emotional range from insouciance to vulnerability to desire to despair is expressed through the exquisite grace of her movements. Each pas de deux she has with Romeo is an enormous pleasure to watch. This Romeo and Juliet leaves you wanting more, which is as it should be in what, despite all that is lovely, ends with the tragedy of blighted lives.

4 stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

In the ultimate tale of forbidden love, two young people risk everything to be together.

This raw and emotionally charged adaptation of Romeo & Juliet breathes new life into Shakespeare’s masterpiece as the passion and violence at work in the streets of Verona boils over, with tragedy following swiftly behind.

Every leap, every turn, every heartbeat invites you to rediscover this iconic story like it’s the very first time, as the lovers fight to kindle their flame against the turmoil around them.

Adapted by Christopher Gable CBE and Massimo Moricone, Romeo & Juliet is one of Northern Ballet’s most beloved and critically acclaimed productions. With glorious dancers, eye-catching sets and Prokofiev’s timeless music, this is ballet at its most dramatic, romantic and intense .

Northern Ballet‘s Romeo & Juliet
28 May to 1 June 2024 at Sadler’s Wells, then touring from 19 September to 26 October 2024

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