Venue: The Opera House (Manchester)

As part of the 40th Anniversary Celebrations the NBT have revived Christopher Gable\'s Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Massimo Moricone and with a live orchestra conducted by John Pryce-Jones with a score by Sergei Prokofiev. It could have been a mess, as the ballet is set in Italy but based upon a story by an Englishman and with music by a Russian. Yet somehow everything clicks together seamlessly.

Les Brotherton\'s stage design of well-worn Roman architecture has the  feel of a place of judgement. It can, however, be adapted with a few cheerful banners to give a party atmosphere or lit gloomily to become a crypt.

The ravishing costumes make clear the distinctions between the warring families. The Montagues wear casual, almost peasant clothes, whilst the Capulets are clad in uniforms of black and scarlet. This has the effect of casting the latter as villains but it is worth it for the dance when Prokofiev\'s ominous march is played. This is made all the more exciting as the women are in full skirts. Denied the chance to use their legs they swirl the voluminous cloth like a coven casting spells. 

In a ballet of contrasts this dark dance is followed by Mercuito acting the fool in a sparkling number and Juliet and her friends performing a tender dance that makes clear why Romeo falls for her. There are a variety of dance styles performed to stunning effect. A pagan celebration opens Act 2 and is followed by Tybalt\'s gang promoting his role as Prince of Cats with a feline dance.

Rather than be limited by the absence of dialogue, the cast use their skills to create people of depth. Although Hironao Takahashi cannot give Mercuito the melancholy that arises in the play he creates a brave man capable of facing his death without  upsetting his friends. He, and Hannah Bateman as the Nurse, give us a great comedy sequence.

Christopher Hilton -Lewis is so caught in the ecstasy of love that he needs all of the massive Opera House stage to show Romeo\'s joy in a breathless display.

As is often the case with the play, Juliet (Keiko Amemori) dominates, if only because we get to see her grow from a child to a woman. From her first appearance, mischievously indulging in a pillow fight, she quickly shows her developing sexual awareness and later love in a series of dances with Paris (Yi Song) and Romeo. These moving performances contrast with her final dance when, forced into an unwanted marriage, she moves heartbroken like a puppet.

This is a very high quality production. It opens ominously with the lovers unable to touch and thunder rumbling overhead. This promise of trouble ahead is fulfilled at the end of Act 2 when the death of Mercuito and Tybalt is followed by a realistic cloudburst.

This powerful production is also like the fulfilment of a promise.

-Dave Cunningham