WOW! Birmingham Royal Ballet’s take on Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet is breathtakingly wonderful from staging to corps de ballet – and everything in between.
Paul Andrews’ touring set is excellent and apposite and, coupled with superb lighting designed by John B Read, provides an evocative and atmospheric backdrop to the action – particularly in the Capulet family crypt.
With a soaring score from Sergei Prokofiev (extracts of which are used for the BBC’s The Apprentice) competently played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under tight direction from conductor Gavin Sutherland, this is an absorbing, colourful evening out.
The whole Corps de Ballet is tremendous, putting their all into the general scenes of everyday Renaissance Verona, adding enjoyment rather than marking time between the real action.
With attention to detail, there are subtle, humorous asides to compel and maintain the pace. Of particular note here are the raucous, shameless and fun harlots danced by Gaylene Cummerfield, Samara Downs and Laetitia Lo Sardo. But what are those mandolin players wearing and why?
I must make mention of the terrific sword fights – each superbly choreographed to be convincingly violent as well as adding percussion to the music and shape to the spectacle.
Ambra Vallo is beautifully vulnerable as Juliet blossoming from carefree girl to a woman trapped by the traditions of her age and gender into the inevitable tragedy. A formidable ballerina, she elegantly commands the stage, persuading the audience of the reality of love at first dance.
Alexander Campbell nails the “Hooray Henry”-ness of the young swashbuckling Romeo. Passionate, romantic and swaggering by turns, this Romeo is believably a lad-about-town taken off-guard by Cupid’s arrow. Displaying an accomplished ease despite the notorious intricacy of the virtuoso role, Campbell is engaging and dynamic.
And the chemistry between the star-crossed lovers is almost palpable in the moving pas de deux – each of which surpassed the last until the climatic, tear-jerking finale as Romeo desperately tries to bring breath to Juliet’s lifeless body.