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Birmingham Royal Ballet: Romeo and Juliet

30 March 16 words: Victoria Villasenor
A more light-hearted version of Shakespeare’s dark tragedy

Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet - photo Andrew Ross

When you think of Romeo and Juliet, you don’t generally think of a jaunty tune or lots of smiles. You think of angst, of dark, brooding locations and, ultimately, tragedy. That’s not what you get with the latest version to grace the stage at the Theatre Royal.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet is a three act ballet, using Sergei Prokofiev’s score, one familiar to most people as it’s become part of popular culture. Unlike the Northern Ballet’s extremely minimalistic version last year, this is a more traditional dancing of the story. The beautiful Raphaelesque colours, both in set design as well as in the costumes, bring to life the time period.

James Barton as Mercutio, Joseph Caley as Romeo by Andrew Ross

Choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, this is a less-elegant ballet, one set on the reality of life, of the difficulty of unattainable love and the conflict between people. The occasionally heavy-footed movements create an atmosphere less removed, less ethereal, than that of, say, the Northern Ballet’s adaptation. Although the dancers are often smiling throughout the show, with much time given to the opulence and parties, the love scenes are beautiful and the connection between Romeo and Juliet are believable. The sword work is fabulous, perfectly timed with the music, and the massive fray onstage with twenty members of the cast sword fighting to the score is impressive.

Certainly, Jenna Roberts, dancing the part of Juliet, was a pleasure to watch. From naïve young girl to desperate young woman, her en point movement stunningly fluid, and she brings the audience into the story beautifully. Though there are moments that feel slightly over the top (particularly Mercutio’s death scene, which seems almost farcical), every facial expression and movement from Roberts is perfectly matched to the moment.

Joseph Caley as Romeo and Momoko Hirata as Juliet - photo Andrew Ross

Iain Mackay, dancing the part of Romeo, was also lovely to watch, and his emotion in both expression and movement was clear every time he looked at Juliet.  Marion Tait, dancing the part of Juliet’s Nurse, was a lovely caring, tragic figure who performed the part of Juliet’s confidant and carer beautifully, and her slight comedic moments in Act II are very well done.

This is a fun ballet, with lovely colour and movement, and dancers who look like they’re enjoying every moment on stage. At nearly three hours, it’s not one I’d recommend for children, but it’s an entertaining evening for those looking for a more light-hearted version of Shakespeare’s dark tragedy.

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Romeo and Juliet plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until April 2nd 2016.

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