Passionate, moving and showing an incredible amount of skill and technique, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of Romeo and Juliet was a joy to watch and wonder at. The tale of the star-crossed lovers is one of the most famous in literary history. Initially dubious as to the suitability of this form in its ability to convey the story effectively; the grace and amount of talent exhibited by the dancers soon altered my perceptions.
The main thing which struck me was the sense of community between the fifty dancers, which was exhibited perfectly in the crowd scenes. Every member of the company had a role to play, which was also highlighted in the ominous and powerful Capulet ball. In this scene, the stage was commanded by the dancers advancing towards the audience, to the strains of Sergei Prokofiev’s iconic and instantly recognisable music.
“Creating a seemingly impossible combination between dance and duel, these moments left the audience breathless”
Stand-out performers, who showed skill, not just as wonderful dancers, but also talented actors were Tyrone Singleton as a vicious Tybalt, and Jenna Roberts, whose isolated, passionate Juliet stole the show. Singleton’s swagger and precise execution made him the perfect Prince of Cats, whose violent death was truly touching to behold. Juliet’s turbulent emotions were transmitted to the audience with ease by Roberts, who made the complex art of ballet, in particular pointe work, look supremely easy.
Amongst the most impressive scenes were the tense and tightly choreographed fight scenes between the warring factions. Creating a seemingly impossible combination between dance and duel, these moments left the audience breathless. For many, the most beautiful moments during the ballet were the wonderful pas de deux performed by Romeo (a powerful Iain Mackay) and Juliet. First dancing together at the Capulet ball, after their wedding night, and culminating in a morbid, passionate and heart-wrenching dance after Juliet’s supposed death, these dances were intimate and beautiful to behold, and truly captured the magic of ballet.
“Jenna Roberts, whose isolated, passionate Juliet stole the show”
Adding to this sense of beauty are the wonderful set, costumes and props, which create the aesthetic of a Renaissance painting. The talented musicians of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Paul Murphy, were stunning, and perfectly on cue, letting the strains of Prokofiev wash over the auditorium, in a hypnotic manner.
The one thing I found bewildering about the ballet was the tragic ending. Yes, Romeo and Juliet do die, but at the end of the original Shakespeare play, the Capulets and Montagues reconcile their differences, leaving the play with a mournful, yet hopeful note. The ballet’s lasting image however, is simply of Romeo and Juliet dead, which was too tragic for my liking.
Despite the woe, as my first experience of a ballet, I could not think of a better production to see than this version of Romeo and Juliet. At times haunting and ominous, and at others erotic and passionate, it is a must-see for ballet lovers and ballet novices alike!
To see another ballet, find out what is on at Theatre Royal here