REVIEW: Northern Ballet: Romeo and Juliet – Theatre Royal – Nottingham


In the ultimate tale of forbidden love, Northern Ballet’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” emerges as a timeless masterpiece, weaving a spellbinding tapestry of passion, turmoil, and raw emotion. Under the visionary direction of Christopher Gable CBE and the masterful choreography of Massimo Moricone, this adaptation breathes new life into Shakespeare’s immortal tale, captivating audiences with its breathtaking beauty and profound emotional resonance.

From the opening notes of Prokofiev’s stirring score, a palpable tension permeates the air, setting the stage for the tumultuous events to come. Christopher Gable’s direction thrives on the juxtaposition of tension and joy that fluctuate throughout. Against the backdrop of Renaissance Verona, the friendship between Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio (portrayed by  Joseph Taylor, Harris Beattie and Filippo Di Vilio, respectively) blossoms with infectious energy, their camaraderie underscored by the vibrant dynamics of Moricone’s choreography. Beattie’s portrayal of Mercutio is a standout, his charismatic presence lighting up the stage with unbridled wit and charm.

The dramatic fight scene in the town square is a tour de force of choreographic prowess, each movement infused with a sense of urgency and desperation, converging into a beautifully frantic spectacle. Abigail Prudames embodies the innocence and naivety of Juliet with ethereal grace, her every movement a testament to the character’s inner conflict and burgeoning passion. Joseph Taylor’s Romeo undergoes a profound transformation, his once carefree demeanour giving way to a newfound sense of inescapable purpose, devotion and infatuation.

While the grandiose set design by Lez Brotherston OBE impresses with its scale and spectacle, there are moments where its limitations become apparent, particularly in the transitions between locations. However, Paul Pyant’s masterful lighting design lends a sense of theatricality to the proceedings, heightening the emotional impact of each scene with its bold and evocative imagery. Pyant’s choices are subtle, often remaining fixed for the majority of scenes. This decision enables the dramatic peaks to become imbued with a heightened sense of voracity and further propounding the emotional intensity of the unfolding events.

The festivities of Verona’s streets give way to a darker undercurrent of tension and conflict. Wonderfully conducted by Daniel Parkinson, Prokofiev’s haunting score underscores the emotional turmoil of the narrative, each note a poignant reminder of the fragility of love and the inevitability of fate. The iconic ‘Dance of the Knights’ serves as an indelible motif of dramatic fervour throughout, propounding a deep sense of tension with each powerful reoccurrence.

An unbridled frenzy that erupts from Helen Bogatch’s Lady Capulet is a sight to behold, a visceral and uncontrolled outpouring of grief. Her emotional poignancy is magnificently complimented by Gable’s shift towards stylised direction, boldly capturing loss through the established impending motif of weather to conclude the Second Act.

The tragic climax of the story unfolds with devastating intensity. Juliet’s desperate struggle against the forces arrayed against her is brought to life with heartbreaking clarity, Prudames delivering a performance of raw emotion and haunting vulnerability. The repetition of her dance with Paris serves as a stark contrast to the intimacy she shares with Romeo, highlighting the stark divide between duty and desire.

The repetition of the dance between Romeo and Juliet takes on a new meaning on two separate occasions, each iteration hauntingly beautiful and laden with emotional significance. As they move in tandem, their movements speak volumes of the love, longing, and tragedy that bind them together.

As Juliet dances with Paris, every movement feels arbitrary and forced, a stark reflection of her inner turmoil and the distance maintained between them. This serves as a stark contrast to the intimacy she shares with Romeo, highlighting the stark divide between duty and desire. The power of live music infuses the performance with a sense of urgency and immediacy, guiding the audience through the emotional peaks and valleys of the story.

Lady Capulet offers a layered performance in Act Three, dutifully overwatching her daughter with a mixture of concern and sympathy. Despite her compliance with Lord Capulet, her quiet grief weighs heavy, especially when compared to her emotional turmoil in the previous act. Her portrayal adds depth and complexity to the narrative, underscoring the tragedy of a mother’s love torn asunder by fate. Similarly as Nurse, Dominique Larose delivers a harrowing display of loss. In comparison to her impeccable comedic timing and flawless execution that brings much levity to the proceedings within the second act, Larose’s mournful repeated sequence when clearing Juliet’s bed emphasises all that she has lost and perfectly encapsulates her grief

Northern Ballet’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” stands as a testament to the enduring power of classical ballet to captivate and inspire. With its breathtaking choreography, stellar performances, and evocative score, this adaptation breathes new life into Shakespeare’s immortal tale, inviting audiences to rediscover the timeless themes of love, loss, and redemption in a spellbinding display of artistry and emotion.

Romeo and Juliet plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until the 4th of May before continuing its national tour.

Photography throughout from Emily Nuttall.






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