Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ROMEO AND JULIET – The Lowry, Salford

Joseph Caley as Romeo and Momoko Hirata as Juliet. Image Credit: Andrew Ross

Joseph Caley as Romeo and Momoko Hirata as Juliet in BRB’s ROMEO & JULIET. Image Credit: Andrew Ross

Passionate, emotional and breathtaking, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s adaptation of ROMEO AND JULIET is simply spectacular

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2016 Shakespeare season looks amazing. The world-class ballet company is performing seven ballets at 10 venues across the UK as part of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. This month sees the much-loved revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s ROMEO AND JULIET which runs at The Lowry until 5 March.

Based on Shakespeare’s famous play, ROMEO AND JULIET tells the story of two star-crossed lovers whose love is at the mercy of feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues. The ballet first premiered in 1965 at Convent Garden with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn as the leads and remains a firm favourite with audiences across the world.

MacMillan’s adaption of ROMEO AND JULIET is spilt into three acts and is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s soaring score. While many choreographers have tackled Prokoviev’s score, notably Frederick Ashton (1955), John Cranko (1962) and Rudolph Nureyev (1977), few achieve the dramatic sublimity of MacMillan’s work. From the exquisite balcony scene, to the intricate midday swordfight which ends in the tragedy of Mercutio’s death, every scene in this production is delivered with accuracy and discipline by the talented cast, each of whom bring passion, emotion and intensity to the characters.

As expected from a world-class company like Birmingham Royal Ballet, ROMEO AND JULIET is a production of significant grandeur. Paul Andrews’ stunning set design instantly transforms the stage into 15th century Italy with its rich palette of sumptuous reds, oranges and greens. The Capulets’ masquerade ball in act one stands out as one of the highlights, as the ensemble strike dramatic poses in a great court dance to Prokofiev’s famous piece Op.64 Dance of the Knights, their arched backs and exaggerated hand movements matching the composition of Renaissance paintings. The famous balcony pas de deux also does not disappoint, as Romeo and Juliet move effortlessly across the stage as if lost in a dream of love as moonlight seeps across the set.

Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in ROMEO AND JULIET. Image Credit: Bill Cooper

Joseph Caley is superb as Romeo, bringing a boyish kind of charm to the role as sees Juliet for the first time. His technique is beautifully-honed and his chemistry with Momoko Hirata as Juliet is realistic and believable as their limbs intertwine and their eyes connect. Hirata is equally captivating as the shy and playful Juliet. Her technique is simply exquisite and she really appears to float on air with her light footwork, making her a pleasure to watch.

The pair are supported by a talented cast including Rory Mackay as the cold and deadly Tybalt and James Barton as Romeo’s friend Mercutio, whose death scene is played with such dramatic intensity that it will take your breath away. Ruth Brill is also shines as Juliet’s Nurse.

A special mention must go to the Royal Ballet Sinfonia Orchestra guided by conductor Koen Kessels. The talented musicians play Prokofiev’s score exquisitely, each piece perfectly matching the dramatic choreography, from the soaring flutes as Romeo and Juliet eyes meet, to the haunting violins of despair as Juliet drinks her sleeping potion.

My only criticism relates to the short breaks between scenes, one in particular during act three in which the orchestra stops playing, interrupting the flow of the piece.

That said, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s adaptation of ROMEO AND JULIET is spectacular and one of the best ballets I have seen in a long time. A passionate, emotional and breathtaking piece that is not to be missed.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet runs at The Lowry until Saturday 5 March